WALLA WALLA -- "This is one of the best features of the whole department," Office Tim Bennett joked as he opened the door to a sparklingly clean locker room with multiple shower stalls. "The old station did have one shower -- that opened up into the urinal."
Shower-urinal combinations are a thing of the past in the new Walla Walla Police Station at 54 E. Moore St.; if there is one thing in abundance in the facility it's space. At 29,000 square feet, the new station is more than triple the size of the old station.
Along with the added space comes efficiency and organization, according to Bennett. Case file storage is much expanded, with an area for preparing for court.
"A lot of our big case (documents) end up being several inches thick," Bennett said, adding that room to lay out files for copying and reference is an asset.
New, two-way evidence lockers open directly into the evidence storage room, improving security. When a detective or patrol officer secures evidence into a locker, it can only be retrieved from the evidence storage room.
"Chain of evidence is simple," Bennett said.
Patrol officers, detectives and SWAT officers all have separate areas for stowing gear and briefings, while large common areas allow for multi-agency briefings for big cases.
In addition to improving efficiency, the department has been able to upgrade its forensics lab with better technology that will help provide a faster turnaround for evidence such as fingerprinting or blood samples.
"Instead of a couple of days, (drying blood samples) takes a couple of hours," said Officer Dan Lackey.
Lackey added new lab equipment will speed up fingerprint analysis as well.
Also new for the station are an exercise facility, an employee lounge with a barbecue purchased by the staff and multiple interview rooms, each equipped with cameras and audio recording equipment.
"We have a total of six interview rooms," Bennett said. "They're all audio-video recorded."
Bennett pointed out one interview room designed specifically for children, with cartoonish scenes on the walls and colorful carpet tiles on the floor.
"We found we needed a place that was kid-friendly," said Chalese Rabidue, the domestic violence services coordinator.
"We've ordered kid-sized furniture, and we have some adult-sized furniture that matches."
The interview room also has a two-way window that allows parents to keep an eye on their kids while in Rabidue's office.
"We're willing to share," Rabidue said of the child-friendly zone, opening the door for other agencies to use the room.
Several work desks around the station have also been set aside for interagency cooperation, according to Bennett.
Bennett added there are a few kinks to work out in the new facility, but the transition has mostly been pretty smooth.
"We're definitely in and working out of here," Bennett said, adding the department hopes to be able to refund a portion of the $11.6 million bond to build the station approved in 2009.
"We have about $300,000 to $400,000," Bennett said. "Our goal is to give a big chunk back to the taxpayers."
Luke Hegdal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8326.