All Welcomed to the New Milliken Police Station
On January 6, 2010, the Milliken (Colorado) Police Department opened the doors for its new policing building—a facility reflecting the department’s vision using architecture and design to support community policing and problem solving. As community members swarmed the gleaming new Milliken Police Station and Meeting House, one could only surmise that the department’s new facility was already successful in relaying its community-policing-laden message of transparency and openness.
Coinciding with the town’s Centennial (January 6, 1910 saw the official opening of the soon-to-be-incorporated town to settlers), Chief Jim Burack and his staff ushered in well-wishers and provided first-hand tours of the facility,1 peppering visitors with explanations of how the building established an environment from which community policing could flourish and enhance information sharing for effective problem solving.
Almost 2 years to the day that the Milliken Police Department (MPD) convened a focus group2 to talk about how to incorporate community policing into its new police facility, many if not all of the recommendations had progressed to brick and mortar representation:
- Access and Visibility: The town selected a downtown site for the new
building; an area where the police and municipal court would be
accessible to the more densely populated area of town, where customers
could walk to obtain service, where the police could be part of the life of
the community, and where the new building could help spark downtown
redevelopment. Coupled with creating a protruding glass wall facing the
street, situating the police station directly on Broad Street (the town’s
main street), allows officers to watch, and even hear the sounds coming
from the street. The location itself serves to employ the principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design
(CPTED), creating a visible police presence and implying control of public
- Safety: Often, and understandably, police find themselves leaning toward the needs of the internal customer at the expense of the community. A basic tension can exist between promoting "officer safety" for internal users and yet, also using the building to project "public safety" into the area around the building. The challenge in situating a police facility directly on the main street is balancing the safety of staff inside the building with the mission outside the walls.
Milliken’s solution was to raise the building off the sidewalk to be above the heads of pedestrian passers-by on the sidewalk and passing motorists on the street, and place ballistic body armor panels in the spandrel glass panels below the windows, including the protruding glass window outside the Great Room.
Video cameras on the front of the building allow police personnel to watch over the main street, including businesses like a bank and convenience store, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The cameras provide perimeter security for the building, can be used to collect data, and emphasize that the Milliken Police Station is built fundamentally to provide public safety for the community.
Information Sharing (Internal): Problem solving stemming from
critical information exchange in a police facility often has less to do with
computers and databases than what is transferred informally from officer
to officer. For this reason, the officer work space, called the Great Room,
was designed as Milliken’s version of a fusion center. Staff work spaces
are arranged around a conference table without dividers so that team
briefings occur around the table. There are no separate briefing or report
writing rooms. This arrangement promotes a healthy professional
environment appropriate for officers who are community leaders and
organizers, instead of following the traditional military-style command and
control organizational model.
- Information Sharing (External): The time for police to build relationships and trust with citizens is before the crisis and before the police are called. The customer service counter has chairs to encourage
visitors to sit down and explain their problems or issues to a police officer
or the Community Services and Resources Assistant behind the counter.
- Public-Use Computer: Milliken residents can find it difficult to access
social services resources or obtain information for referrals offered
through the county government or nonprofits because they are typically
situated at the county seat about 15 miles away. To increase their
community’s access to information, MPD installed a dedicated desktop
computer in the lobby for online searches of services, such as those
offered by United Way 211.5 The bilingual Community Services and
Resources Assistant, who also is the police records clerk, serves as an
information resource for Milliken residents seeking social services
- Community Meeting Room: The adjacent community room off the
lobby also serves as the municipal court. Through consultation with the
Center for Court Innovation, architectural features, such as glass windows
for transparency and a circular design embedded into the carpet, were
incorporated to promote a community courts approach and restorative
- What’s Next: A Cops & Kids Park is planned for Spring 2010, with its location on the southeast corner of the police facility. Mere steps from the officer exercise room, the park will provide opportunities for interaction and positive relationship development between officers and young people, as well as their parents. The play area, which will include electronic playground equipment and climbing boulders, will also be monitored by video surveillance.
The lobby with a fireplace, couches, and rocking chairs instantly signals to visitors that the police department is an inviting place. It provides a venue for officers to meet informally with residents or speak to victims or witnesses (when privacy is not required).3 Bookshelves next to the fireplace are the home for the Town Kids Library, containing hundreds of books, toys, and a train set.4 The library encourages people to visit the station even when they're not seeking police help.
The Dedication Ceremony6 was anchored by remarks from the COPS Office, the Colorado Attorney General, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, District Attorney for Weld County (Colorado), and U.S. Senatorial representatives. Presiding over the ceremony, Chief Burack quoted Winston Churchill: "We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” as he explained the promise of the Milliken Police facility’s physical work environment shaping not only the police staff’s organizational culture, but helping to shape the town of Milliken.7
If it is true that a police facility can shape the view of community members who pass by the building or come inside for police or court services, could Milliken have created a police facility that will not only promote a safe community, but will serve as a building block for a vibrant and sustainable town for years to come?
Collectively these elements have contributed to creating a facility that could make the Milliken Police Department more successful in the delivery of a community policing and problem-solving style of service. Yielding closer citizen- police relationships and encouraging the flow of information, the new Milliken Police Station and Meeting House may serve as a model for other cities as a neighborhood-based police station that supports community policing.
Photos taken with permission of Milliken Police Department, courtesy of Jim Burack and Debra Cohen
- 1 www.greeleytribune.com/article/20100107/NEWS/100109796/-1/RSS
- 2In January 2008, the Milliken Police Department convened a multidisciplinary focus group to inform the new building’s design. Funded by the COPS Office, the focus group included police and local officials, police from surrounding jurisdictions, architects, community members, subject matter experts in problem- solving and CPTED, and Colorado State University representatives. See the summary reported by the Dispatch at www.cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/april_2008/building_community.htm.
- 3When privacy is required, a separate, secure victim interview room, replete with toys and books, is available.
- 4 All of the books were donated by Barnes & Noble. Toys and rugs were donated by Target.
- 6 www.greeleytribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100105/NEWS/100109870/-1/rss
- 7 http://town.milliken.co.us/