Police HQ And 1,100 Workers Going to SE
Thursday, April 26, 2007
The District plans to move its top police officials from their longtime location in downtown Washington into an industrial building the city will renovate and lease in Southeast Washington.
Plans call for D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and about 200 senior staff members to make the move late next year or in early 2009. The new location, at 225 Virginia Ave. SE, will house numerous other police units, including the 1st Police District, the department's violent crimes branch, the narcotics division and the evidence warehouse. More than 1,100 police department employees will work there.
The D.C. Council approved the annual $6.5 million lease but has yet to sign off on as much as $100 million that may be needed to renovate the building, city officials said. The renovations include adding a sixth floor and a parking garage, said Edward A. Hamilton, a civilian at the police department responsible for facilities.
The chief and other top officials have been at 300 Indiana Ave. NW for decades, in a part of the city -- Judiciary Square -- that is a hub of criminal justice activity. The courts are a short walk from the headquarters, as are city and federal prosecutors' offices and the FBI's Washington field office. But officials said the building is old and deteriorating.
"It hasn't been maintained or kept up in the decades since it was built," said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who supports the move. "That's not good for working conditions or morale."
The current building will still be used, officials said, for some police and municipal offices. The building is owned by the city and will continue to house offices of more than 10 government agencies, including the Department of Corrections, the Child and Family Services Agency and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.
Some details remain to be worked out. If the costs for renovations are included in the 20-year lease, the payment will increase. The lease also gives the city the option to buy the building, owned by Washington Telecom Associates LLC. Mahmood Khimji is listed as the company's managing director.
The police department was planning to move a number of operations into the building when Lanier took over in January, but the high command was not included in the relocation plans. She said she decided it would be more efficient to move her office to an old printing plant, once owned by the Washington Star and The Washington Post.
"It's efficiency and economy of government," Lanier said. "We're too spread out across the city."
Officials said that the move also will provide better security for the chief and for evidence.
But community activist Dorothy Brizill opposes having the chief move her office, saying that the new location is more remote. "Public safety is a key function of government," she said. "It needs to be visible and accessible. It doesn't need to be hidden."
Lanier said she is not concerned that she's moving her office away from Judiciary Square and other top law enforcement officials. "225 Virginia Avenue is not that far away. I don't see any impact," Lanier said. "I can count on my hands the number of hours per week I spend in my office. Most of us at this level are running from location to location all day."
The 1st Police District, which handles patrols for Capitol Hill and many nearby neighborhoods, is now based at 415 Fourth St. SW, the future site of a crime lab.
Most of the offices that are being transferred to Virginia Avenue are in leased office space that costs $1.4 million, such as the special operations division, now housed at 23rd and L streets NW. Lanier, formerly the commander of that unit, said the department outgrew that location 15 years ago.
The move follows the city's decision to relocate the Department of Motor Vehicles from the Indiana Avenue building to 95 M St. SW. The DMV will open its new office Monday.
The current police headquarters building was renamed after Sgt. Henry J. Daly, who was killed there along with two FBI agents in a November 1994 ambush. Lanier said most customer services will remain in the old building, including police records, the office that issues police identification cards and the office that certifies special police officers, the security officers management branch.
"People who need to get things done will still be able to accomplish them at Indiana Avenue," Lanier said.