LETHBRIDGE – The Lethbridge Police Service opened their doors to the public Thursday, Dec. 7, giving the community a look at the renovation and expansion project that had been underway since 2014.
Insp. Tom Ascroft met with the media before the start of the community tours, explaining that the $28-million remodel left virtually no space untouched.
“The original building was built in 1996, we outgrew it quite a while before the addition was able to be completed,” stated Ascroft. “It runs 365 days a year, 24-hours a day, so it wears out three times faster than a regular building that's only used Monday to Friday, 8-4.”
Among the big highlights for officers, was the addition of underground parking – Ascroft pointed out that the new technology in their vehicles doesn’t work as well when it gets extremely cold – and a new combatives training space.
“With use of force equipment, we're required to have a significant amount of training and qualification with batons and OC spray and stuff like that. So we, in the past, had to do that off site and had to make arrangements. We now have a combatives room with mats and everything. So, for qualifying for batons and things like that, we can do that on-site. It reduces the amount of time that [officers] are off the street, because they can just schedule it, pop in here and do it. We also have a firearms simulator down there.”
One area that was off limits during the tour – due to privacy and security concerns – was the new holding cells at the station. Ascroft stated that the number of cells has increased from eight to 28, adding that it came just in time, as changes in the way prisoners are processed meant the new cells filled up immediately.
With the renovation now finished and 243 staff members settled into the building, Ascroft admitted that getting to this point wasn’t easy.
“It was exasperating at times… I don't know if anybody's ever built a house or renovated a house and lived in it at the same time – that's kind of what happened here – but on a much bigger scale. So, the staff here was just great, patient. We didn't have too many issues, considering we had to move a lot of people to a lot of different sites. We were quite fragmented for a while, which has impacts on the operation of the organization. It's nice to have everybody back now.”
When asked about any possible concerns stemming from allowing the public into the structure, Ascroft said it’s important for the service to keep the community in the loop, as much as possible.
“It's a balance. You want to be transparent and you want people to see what they paid for,” he stated. “This is a lot of money and we do appreciate that we're benefiting from this great facility, but the other thing is that there's some parts of policing that are not intended for everybody to know. So, we have to balance that, and I think we've done that.”
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