The more I learn about how the Mayor, City Manager, and other public officials went about planning a new Police Facility for Salem, Oregon, the screwier that process looks.
In fact, it was backwards -- based on how the International Association of Chiefs of Police say things should be done in "Police Facility Planning Guidelines -- Desk Reference for Law Enforcement Executives."
Download Police Facility Planning Guidelines
Here's the key steps in what the City of Salem did, as documented under "Timeline of Council Actions" on the web page devoted to Public Safety Facility and Civic Center Seismic Need.
(1) September 2010: Decide that a new Police Facility was needed, and it should be located at the Civic Center. A City Council subcommittee was charged with making this happen. The subcommitte would work with consulting firms (ZGF/CBTwo) and a University of Oregon Sustainable Cities Initiative student project.
(2) May 2011: After the students were instructed to come up with ideas for a Police Facility at the CIvic Center, the consulting firm "refined best of student's work," continuing to focus solely on a Civic Center site.
(3) November 2011: City staff and the ZGF/CBTwo consultants consider the pluses and minuses of alternative sites in a report. The subcommitee decides that the Civic Center site is the best option, which isn't surprising, since it has spent over a year and a lot of money planning for a new police facility at the Civic Center.
(4) June 2013: After more work by the consultants, a $70 million project plan for a Civic Center Police Facility and seismic upgrades/renovations is unveiled at a City Council work session. A program is initiated that would include "outreach to community leaders and the general public."
Those steps (1) - (4) involved essentially zero public input.
There was basically no opportunity for citizens to be involved with planning for a new police facility, or to weigh in on the pluses and minuses of locating this facility in a brand new building at the Civic Center. Even City Council members complained they were kept in the dark about this project.
Alternatives to the Civic Center site for a Police Facility were only considered after many tens of thousands of dollars had been spent on planning for a project at the Civic Center.
Let's contrast the City of Salem's approach with how the International Association of Chiefs of Police guidelines say planning for a new police facility should be done. Below are some initial key steps in that recommended process.
(Note: this Chiefs of Police document was funded by the United States Department of Justice; everybody involved was American, aside from one Canadian project advisor; so the document seems to be "international" pretty much in name only.)
(1) Identify and analyze deficiencies with the existing building. Form a Planning Team, which eventually expands to include a Pre-Design team. Evaluate proposals from architectural firms/consultants who are interested in working on the project.
(2) Establish community support for the project. Which at this point is just to build a new police facility or renovate the old one, since it hasn't yet been decided what the facility would look like or where it would be located. An educational campaign communicates the deficiencies in the existing building and the need for a new one.
(3) Conduct a space needs analysis for the new police facility. Evaluate facility options: Renovation of the existing building, acquisition and adaptation of an existing non-law enforcement facility, or new construction. Evaluate potential facility sites.
(4) Develop preliminary project design and estimated construction costs.
So the City of Salem did indeed do things backwards.
Mayor Anna Peterson and City Manager Linda Norris started off by choosing a site for a new police facility -- the Civic Center. This was their Step One, which in the schema summarized above is Step Three of the approach recommended by experts in this area.
It is poor planning to consider alternative facility options (renovation of existing building, remodeling of another building, new construction) only after project consultants and a planning team have spend more than than a year focused on building a new police facility at the Civic Center.
And then, to have the project consultants and planning team be the ones who decide whether there are viable alternatives to the police facility plan that they had spent so much time, money, and effort developing.
Again, with basically zero community input, another backwards approach by the City of Salem.
Instead of seeking community support for a new police facility early on, before the location and basic design of a facility has been settled on, the City of Salem did its planning in near-secrecy, then unveiled the resulting $70 million plan without any previous public hearings or community input.
Now City officials are running around trying to build support for the plan, which the Police Chiefs planning document says should be done before site selection and design alternatives have been assessed.
No wonder people are asking questions about such a screwy process.
Salem Community Vision, for one. It isn't too late to consider potentially much less expensive and more effective alternatives to the City of Salem's "rush to judgment" $70 million plan.