BY PATRICK L. GALLAGHER
VIRGINIA BEACH — We are fast approaching the completion of our newest police facility, the new Fourth Precinct in Kempsville, which will serve more than 120,000 residents. If it were its own city, it would boast the eighth largest in population in the commonwealth.
The current Fourth Precinct has a complement of 114 sworn police officers in what originally was the Kempsville Public Library when it was built in 1969. It remained a library until 1991, when it was refurbished as the new Fourth Precinct. Capt. Clyde Hathaway served as its first Commanding Officer – and the first lieutenant to be assigned to this new precinct was James A. Cervera, now our sixth police chief since the establishment of Virginia Beach as an independent city in 1963.
When police took possession of the building in 1991, it was already too small to be as effective as it should have been. The footprint of the building did not allow for expansion. With only 5,000 square feet to work from, the men and women of the Fourth Precinct had to make do.
It would take almost 25 years before city officials agreed to build a new facility that would be more than three times that size in order to meet the needs of the agency and the community. In late 2014, we began the process of designing the new facility through extensive interviews with staff that included a wide range of police and city agency personnel. Community meetings were held to seek public input on priorities and recommendations for the new facility.
Recognizing that the new police station will serve as a “mission critical” facility, the new building needed to be designed as a high-performance structure capable of withstanding wind speeds at the top scale of a Category 2 hurricane and resistive of seismic forces well above the minimum code standard. The facility will also feature a state-of-the-art emergency back-up generator that’s ready to support the entire facility at any given moment, ensuring the police station will always remain in full operation during an emergency.
Matt Astrin and Brian Wolf are the lead architects and representatives of architectural firm RRMM. They have created a healthy and productive relationship with the police department in moving this project forward. Bimonthly meetings have been held since the ground breaking took place to address any and all issues in the construction phase. Carl Hebert, the lead public works project manager, has also been a valued partnered in this project. Retired Capts. Tony Yarbrough and Ben Gonse, along with Fourth Precinct Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Jones and precinct staff are due special recognition for their help.
The morale of those who will occupy the precinct will improve efficiency, aid in recruiting future qualified staff and increase our ability to retain our valued employees. Equally important is the functionality of the facility to the community. The ability to bring community functions to the police precinct supports the VBPD’s mission to building stronger relationships with the people we serve.
It will serve as the future home for monthly Fourth Police Precinct Citizen Advisory Committee meetings and other events that will support a multitude of community interests. In addition, the Virginia Beach Police Department continues to strategize new community outreach projects in and around the facility to focus on youth and our military community, among other stakeholders in our communities.
The proximity of the newly designed city parks and recreation space will create more opportunities to meld community interaction with our police officers. The new park is intended to have a police theme for children and families who will enjoy the open space.
The symmetry between the police station and the neighborhood park will create increased opportunities for greater interaction and exposure to the department’s shift from a traditional warrior image to one that is more collaborative and guardian-based.
Over the past four years, much has occurred to bring us to where we are today. We will face some additional challenges before we take full possession of the new facility. We anticipate that we will move into the new building before the end of the year.
The leadership of Virginia Beach, the police chief and his command staff are all extremely grateful to all who have joined in this team effort to create a world-class facility.
It will serve the needs of our community while we honor and respect those who facilitate the mission of the Virginia Beach Police Department – namely, the sworn and non-sworn men and women who serve, especially those who will occupy the new Fourth Precinct, to make it a beacon of public service to all in our community.
Deputy Chief Patrick L. Gallagher oversees the Virginia Beach Police Department Investigative Division.
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