SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — This weekend, the public can check out the new Public Safety Campus during an open house in northeast Sioux Falls.
This training center for police and firefighters is expected to free-up both staffing and space at the downtown Law Enforcement Center, as it enters its 20th year as at the main headquarters for both the Sioux Falls Police Department and the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve got the police detectives, the sheriff’s detectives, the Division of Criminal Investigation…” Sioux Falls Police Public Information Officer Sam Clemens said.
Clemens was a patrol officer when he and the rest of the department moved into what was then the brand-new Law Enforcement Center 20 years ago.
“For me on patrol, it was easy. I just had to pack up my locker and move it to a new locker. A lot of other divisions had a lot bigger task,” Clemens said.
The new $9.5 million LEC was much larger than the department’s old headquarters at the downtown Public Safety Building.
“Anytime you move into something brand-new, it’s going to be kind of night-and-day. The biggest difference was the amount of space that we had when we moved into this building,” Clemens said.
The LEC was built large enough to house both the police department and sheriff’s office under the same roof.
“The best-case scenario is to have a great working relationship between the sheriff’s office and the police department. This building helps us accomplish that,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.
Milstead says the layout of the building helps maximize that cooperation between law enforcement agencies.
“Right next to my office is the Joint Fugitive Task Force that has members of the Sioux Falls Police Department and Minnehaha County sheriff’s deputies. Down the hallway is our detective bureau. It’s a mixture of Sioux Falls PD, Minnehaha County deputies and the State Division of Criminal Investigation agents,” Milstead said.
The number of police officers and sheriff’s deputies has changed a lot in the 20 years since the Law Enforcement Center first opened. Back in 2003, there were 201 officers in the Sioux Falls Police Department. That number is now at 288. And that’s created a bit of a space crunch here at the LEC.
“What it comes down to, we’re full. And we’ve maximized the usage of the space. We’re still looking and exploring other options,” Clemens said.
Other options include adding more report-to-work stations like the one that’s currently in operation in southwest Sioux Falls. Officers can start their shifts at the station without having to check into the LEC.
“We’re going to be exploring or opening one, at some point, in the southeast part of Sioux Falls. And then there’s also talk of expanding west, or northwest,” Clemens said.
The new Public Safety Campus in northeast Sioux Falls will free up more space as police recruits train here instead of the LEC.
“When we have recruits in training that will alleviate some of the pressure here. They’ll be back in this building, or could be at one of the report-to-work stations,” Clemens said.
In the meantime, police and sheriff’s deputies have been swapping-out areas and repurposing sections of the building to get the best use out of the scarce space. They’ve been able to manage their growing pains and say after 20 years in service, the law enforcement center is far from outliving its usefulness.
“We’re working with what we have. And, as we’ve grown, it kind of becomes a little more challenging. It’s still a very functional building,” Clemens said.
“We continue to grow into this building. But we haven’t outgrown this building,” Milstead said.
The police department will still keep some of its training facilities at the LEC even after the Public Safety Campus opens. The Campus Open House will take place this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.