TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
The parking lot for the new Brandon Police Service headquarters bordering McTavish Ave. in Brandon is seen on Wednesday.
The president of the police union is calling for the closure of a city street to make more room to park police cars at the new station.
Brandon Police Association president Kevin Loewen says the design for the station didn’t allow for enough parking space.
Suspected thief makes history
It’s a place in city history that this this man probably wishes he didn’t hold.
A man arrested for shoplifting has become the first suspect to be taken to the new police station.
“It looks like our first customer was a 32-year-old Brandon man,” Brandon Police Service Const. Ron Burgess said.
The new police station started operation on July 23.
The man is accused of stealing a power nail gun from a city home improvement store on July 24.
He was allegedly caught on video surveillance and arrested around 2 p.m. that same day, after he was identified by store staff.
He was taken to the new station, charged with theft and released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.
» Brandon Sun
As a result, he sees it as inevitable that the city will have to permanently close the 1000-block of McTavish Avenue.
"I don’t think that they have any other choice," Loewen said. "I think that in time that it’s going to have to happen."
According to the Brandon Police Service and the city, however, it’s too soon to consider such a move.
"Right now, we’re working at moving into the building and trying to identify any problems that we may have," said Brandon Police Service Const. Ron Burgess. "If there are any issues, they’ll be dealt with as they are identified."
Director of communications Allison Collins said that the city agrees time is needed to evaluate the day-to-day operation of the new station before making any decisions about traffic flow.
"If it is determined that traffic flow needs to be changed after such a period of evaluation, then the proper process will be followed involving all pertinent departments," Collins said.
The new police station at the corner of Victoria Avenue and 10th Street began operation on July 23.
Under the design for the station, Loewen said, the lot to the south side of the station was to be used to park police vehicles.
Burgess confirmed that the south lot is to be used to park marked police cars.
On the day the station began operation, Loewen noted that the south side lot was crowded with police vehicles, even though a few were still parked at the old station on the 1300-block of 10th Street.
He’s concerned that there isn’t enough space to allow police vehicles to come and go safely so vehicles, staff and even arrestees are at risk.
"I truly believe that it’s an accident waiting to happen," Loewen said.
Loewen expressed concerns since the site was picked for the station, a decision announced back in April 2007.
He warned the city and Brandon Police Service management that there wasn’t enough space on the south side of the building for police vehicles.
He said that more recently, before work on the parking lots began, he also wrote emails to advise the city’s engineering department. The department’s response was that there was enough room, Loewen said.
Burgess wouldn’t disclose how many marked or unmarked police vehicles the force has.
However, Loewen said there aren’t many unmarked cars, and according to a previous report there were 25 police vehicles as of July 2007.
There’s a large parking lot to the north side of the station which is intended for employees and visitors.
But Loewen said that parking police vehicles there instead would defeat the purpose behind one of the features of the new station.
The building — an extensively renovated Safeway, bank and liquor store — features a drive-in garage so prisoners can be driven directly into the new station without setting foot outside. That reduces the chance of an escape.
Parking in front of the new station would mean that officers would have to escort their prisoner into the building from outside.
They’d either go around the building to the south side where the holding area is located, or walk through the front doors on the north side and then through the interior of the station.
Loewen said "parading" suspects in handcuffs through the front parking lot in the middle of Brandon, or through the station, wouldn’t be appropriate.
Arrestees deserve better, he said, keeping in mind that people who are taken into custody don’t necessarily wind up being charged.
Closing the 1000-block of McTavish Avenue would allow for more parking spaces and travel space for vehicles, Loewen suggests. Plus, he said, it could help lessen traffic in the area of 10th Street. That intersection is already busy with motorists, including some from nearby Superstore.
Entering 10th Street from McTavish Avenue will be even tougher now due to police vehicles, Loewen said, but shutting down part of the avenue that runs behind the station may help reduce traffic.
Collins pointed out that a garage expansion is part of the capital budget for the future, and any traffic concerns that are identified could be factored into those plans.
Meanwhile, plans remain to create a veterans memorial and green space at the front of the building, on the northwest side of the property.
Early in the planning stages, there had been talk of creating commercial green space on the north side of the lot along Victoria Avenue.
But Collins says that was an idea considered by the previous mayor and council. It was dismissed by previous city manager Brian MacRae and was never part of the official police station design.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 2, 2012