INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Independence police are pushing for a new public safety campus because they say their current building is old and not safe.
The building was built in 1973 and police say the conditions of the headquarters have only gotten worse, making a difficult job even tougher.
“Those issues are problematic for sure,” Independence Chief of Police Adam Dustman says.
The biggest issue they’re facing right now is water damage that’s impacting every floor in the building. Dustman says they’ve put several hundred thousand dollars into the building, but the issues are beyond repair.
There’s calcification, water leaking from the roof, and they’ve also had to deal with sewage leaks inside employee workspaces, according to Dustman.
“So that you know presents a fire hazard and other things very unsafe conditions for our employees as they use this facility,” Dustman said.
Another issue the department is facing is a lack of space. Dustman says the department has grown exponentially the past 50 years and can no longer function properly in the current building.
The department says it is using air vent spaces to store important documents and evidence, which they’re trying to protect from water damage. Dustman says a new safety campus would fix these problems and also help retain and attract new employees.
“We want the best individuals to come in here and so when they look at our police department and they see where they’re going to work every day, where they’re going to come in, where they’re gonna spend a lot of time away from their families serving their community,” Dustman said. “We want that to be representative of what they deserve.”
The repairs are needed even after the department misused tax-payer money to pay patrol officers overtime to remodel areas inside police headquarters.
A whistleblower brought the issue to light a year ago. The city manager reported more than 2,800 hours of overtime was paid to at least one officer. According to the city manager, that officer received more than $200,000 in gross pay and benefits.
The work paid for renovations to office space and a briefing room for patrol officers. Remodeling also took place in the building’s detention area.
The city’s new police chief says early estimates to build a new public safety campus are at two million dollars. Dustman says the campus will likely be a bond issue that will go to voters, potentially as early as August.
According to a firm the department contacted, it would be cheaper and more efficient to build a new, state-of-the-art campus for both police and municipal court. Supporters hope to build the new campus near the department’s utility center off 23rd Street.
If they’re able to secure funding, he’s hoping the facility is up and running within two to three years.