Durham County

Get a first look inside the new Durham Police Department headquarters

The new $71.3 million Durham Police Department headquarters and Emergency Communications Center opens this month. You can see it Saturday, but here are some of the highlights.

The building at 602 E. Main St. downtown has a charcoal and gray brick exterior, LED lighting and a lot of floor-to-ceiling glass. There’s a big atrium at the entrance, and by summer, three public art pieces will be added, too.

But one of the things that excites Chief C.J. Davis the most are the elevators.

The elevators in the department’s current home, a former insurance building on West Chapel Hill Street, have not always worked, and visitors sometimes have had to share them with those in police custody. Separate elevators in the back of the building will now go to interview rooms.

“The old building was old,” Davis said. “It’s time to move on.”

O’Brien Atkins architects designed the new headquarters, in the works since 2010. The firm also designed the Durham County Administration Building II renovation, which just opened, as well as the Durham County Justice Center.

The lobby of the new Durham Police Department headquarters and Emergency Communications Center, seen on a tour given to the press on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, is bright and open. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

The new building is one of several downtown construction projects. The 4.5-acre site borders East Main, Hood and Dillard streets.

The property was previously a Carpenter Chevrolet building and surface parking lot. The Chevrolet building was demolished, and 5,000 tons of contaminated soil was removed from the site.

LeChase construction, Callis contractors and subcontractors worked on the project that includes a parking garage for DPD employees. Nearly half of the subcontracted work was done by women-owned and minority-owned firms, said Marcus Tuttle of of LeChase.

Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis greets the press before answering questions about the new Durham Police Department headquarters and Emergency Communications Center on Wednesday Oct. 17, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Who works there

Roughly 380 employees will work in the new headquarters, including 298 police staffers and 82 emergency communications staffers.

Departments in the building are personnel and recruiting, records, Traffic Services Unit, District 5/Bicycle Unit/K9 Unit, supply, Forensic Services Unit, Criminal Investigation Division, Special Operations Division, Crime Analysis Unit, Office of the Chief, Professional Standards, Fiscal, Accreditation, Planning, Training, E911-Emergency Communication Center, and Information Technology Division.

A few departments have started moving into the new building, with the rest coming later this fall.

Durham 911 call center

Emergency Communications Center director Randy Beeman said the center will be fully digital and the first in North Carolina to use Emergency Services Internet Services, which enables them to send information to any other call center in the state. They will also be able to receive 911 texts.

Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson said the center is also a much better work space for employees who work 10-hour shifts and longer. There’s also an outdoor seating area between the buildings for employees.

The 911 call center in the new Durham Police Department headquarters and Emergency Communications Center is equipped with standing desks, blue lights that help employees stay awake on long shifts, and a balcony where employees can take breaks from the stress of the job. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

“It may seem small to have a patio out back, but the ability to go outside” after a stressful call is important, Ferguson said. He said the call center has enough space for the department to grow and also to scale up dramatically during an emergency.

The current 911 center in the old headquarters is also walled in by glass that leaks hot air in the summer and cold air in the winter. It also exposes the center to storm damage or possible terrorist attack

The new headquarters puts the center in a more secure space and features some bullet- and hurricane-resistant glass throughout the building.

Old Durham police headquarters

The new building was criticized by some who said it was too expensive or didn’t belong on Main Street, where it might divide the revitalized downtown area. The Board of Trustees at N.C. Central University lobbied for a location close to the school’s Fayetteville Street campus.

But Main Street won out. After months of lobbying from groups who want more affordable housing downtown, the City Council decided in June to sell the old DPD headquarters site contingent on would-be purchasers including affordable housing in their plans.

“The affordable housing, for me, is much less negotiable than the preservation of the building,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson, who spoke at a 2016 rally opposing the then planned new headquarters. “If they were to bring us a proposal with no affordable housing, that would be a waste of everyone’s time.”

Public art

There will be three pieces of public art installed at the complex.

“Sewing Peace” will be displayed on the interior atrium wall and visible from the outside. It will feature a quote that is still being decided along with threads of blue, orange and yellow connecting letters.

Outside by the entrance will be a steel structure called “Woven Shield,” with painted metal that looks like colorful thread similar to the interior piece. Both artworks are by RE:site in Texas.

Public art renderings by RE:site that will be installed by summer 2019 in the new Durham Police Department headquarters on East Main Street.

Local artist David Wilson will also create a mural on the Main Street side corridor of the building.

See for yourself

You can see see the Durham Police Headquarters Complex, at 602 E. Main St., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20. There will be a ribbon cutting at noon. There will be building tours, entertainment and food. Parking is free in the Human Services Building parking lot next to the headquarters.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan
Related stories from Durham Herald Sun