After almost five years of preparation, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department celebrated its move to new headquarters at 1915 Olive St. with a ceremonial march and ribbon-cutting Saturday.
Because the former headquarters at 1200 Clark Ave. needed $70 million in repairs, the department opted to find a new building instead. The former A.G. Edwards building was purchased in 2011 using $2.7 million in asset forfeiture funds, and the St. Louis Police Foundation contributed $3 million for renovations.
Foundation president Douglas Albrecht said funding the needs of the police department is the purpose of his organization.
“The police department has a very limited budget. Over 90 percent of their budget goes to payroll, pension, benefits,” he said. “So when they were looking at doing this building, it would be very difficult for them to raise several more million dollars that it would take to get in here, so we made a $3 million commitment, and fortunately we had the donors to back it up.”
The remaining renovation costs were paid for using city bonds and more asset forfeiture funds. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Police Chief Sam Dotson joked that because asset forfeiture funds are taken by court-order from criminals, in this case crime really did pay.
Dotson described the new building as having everything a police headquarters needs with a little touch of corporate America, including Wi-Fi and a workout room.
The 10-block march from the old headquarters to the new was intended to provide closure and symbolize a move into the future, said Dotson. He acknowledged that for police officers like him, it wasn’t easy to leave the place where they had worked for so many years.
But, he added, he is excited by the possibilities of the new building because it will enable the force to work more efficiently and cooperatively.
“The old building that we were in was 1927 construction, and it was very choppy. And just an example, the homicide division was split up between five different offices throughout the building. So now they’re all in the same area. We have new holding cells, new interview rooms. I just think the new modern flow will help create better cooperation between units.”
The new headquarters has plenty of parking and direct entrance from a freight elevator to holding cells. The sex offender registration center has also been moved away from the main lobby.
Speaking to the crowd of law enforcement, dignitaries and members of the public that had gathered for the ceremony and building tour, Dotson used the literal cost savings demonstrated in moving to a new building instead of repairing the old as an illustration of why the police department is making changes in other areas.
“We understand that it costs more to live in the past than it does to invest in our future,” said Dotson.
Like the move to a new building, he said that redistricting for the first time in 50 years and collaborating with St. Louis County police also place the Metropolitan Police Department in a better position to face the future.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille