Blue Line

Sudbury police board continues to push for new headquarters

March 18, 2022  By Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Mar. 17, 2022, Sudbury, Ont. – The Greater Sudbury Police Service is once again exploring its options to build a new standalone facility to address space limitations and evolving operational needs.

During a virtual meeting on Wednesday, the board passed a motion to allow the service to initiate an request for proposals (RFP) process “to undertake a comprehensive review of options” with money to be drawn from the police service’s capital financing reserves.

Chief Paul Pedersen said a new facility is needed because the service’s current infrastructure “is one of the barriers to effective and efficient policing.”

The service said it’s been in negotiations with the city about the state of its facilities for the past 10 years, and it’s time to have a conversation about how to move forward.


“This is a building that was designed in the ’70s. Now we’re sitting in 2022, and it’s definitely aging and outdated in terms of our core infrastructure,” said police service CAO Sharon Baiden.

“Because it’s a multi-storey office building, we’ve had to stack our operations, which just by virtue of that floor-by-floor separation, has created some communications challenges.”

Baiden added that police headquarters, located on 190 Brady St., is suffering from “significant overcrowding.”

Its locker rooms are “completely beyond capacity,” most of its meeting room space has been converted into offices, and there isn’t enough parking space.

“Just as an example, our criminal investigators work in 35-square-foot cubicles and it’s just a whole sea of cubicles on that floor,” she said.

“Some of them are open rooms with as many desks as we can fit in. That certainly has been a challenge during the pandemic as we try to create and maintain physical distancing.”

Additionally, Baiden said that because of the building’s aging infrastructure, its elevators need to be replaced.

“The unfortunate thing with the elevators is that when they are replaced, it takes one or the other completely out of commission,” she said.

“When we rely on such traffic flow through the building, particularly during our business working hours, that will be a challenge in order to cope with that replacement.”

The police service’s interview rooms for accused and suspect individuals is on the fourth floor, Baiden continued.

“That can cause intersection with the public. It’s also a very close and confined space, and we could have officers in that very confined space with violent accused persons,” she said.

Other challenges include public access to the building and general security.

Baiden said there has also been issues with water leaks, mold, and asbestos “that requires ongoing remediation” in addition to aging mechanical heating and ventilation systems.

“We are using makeshift solutions to continue and maintain our operations,” she said.

During the virtual presentation, Pedersen gave the board an overview of the business demands the service is seeing in modern policing.

One of the issues is that the range of service offered by police continues to expand while its facilities have been unable to keep up.

“Criminal investigations have grown over the years to include things that were never even known to be crimes in the past, whether we’re talking about tech crimes or human trafficking,” said Pedersen.

“Our domestic violence unit and bail safety unit have grown. Intimate partner violence is very much an issue for us in that we need to protect both victims and witnesses.”

Communications and information technology (CIT) and forensics have evolved significantly over the years, he added.

“It’s not too long ago that we would ever have imagined storing things on clouds. We didn’t know what Bluetooth was,” he said.

“Forensics has grown exponentially, including DNA and the need for evidence continuity. We need to make sure that our evidence isn’t contaminated on the way to storage.”

Police services are also currently seeing “extended oversight and a need for professional investigations to ensure public trust and accountability.”

“All of those things are now necessary requirements for ongoing operations,” said Pedersen.

“I would imagine that the police leadership, chiefs, and frontline officers from back in the day would have never imagined this suite of services that need to be delivered for modern policing.”

Baiden said the police service started feeling the pressures of its infrastructure limitations as early as 2004.

“At that time, there was a feasibility study undertaken to determine whether or not we could locate certain police service elements out of the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre coupled with fire and EMS services,” she said.

They moved some police services to the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre in Azilda in 2007, including training, traffic, and evidence control.

The serviced commissioned an extensive functionality and facilities assessment in 2014 with an emphasis on 200 Larch St. and the former transit garage as a third operating site.

“Both sites were deemed unsuitable, so we had to abandon both of those thoughts. The primary focus came back to an expansion and renovation on police headquarters,” said Baiden.

The plan to expand headquarters by 23,000 square feet and the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre by 28,000 square feet was endorsed and adopted by the board. The total project cost came in at just under $19 million.

But a KPMG review later confirmed that the existing facilities were contributing to the service’s inefficiencies, so that project was abandoned, as well.

The city’s emergency services steering committee passed a motion in April 2019 to initiate a comprehensive needs assessment for community safety development.

Baiden said that the city’s fire and paramedic services were also experiencing space limitations, so it was suggested that city staff prepare an RFP on a “tri-services main-headquartered operation centre.”

“There was a slight delay due to staff ability, but we were totally ready to go by March 2020. That unfortunately, had to be placed on hold because of the pandemic,” she said.

City council ultimately shot down the idea.

“In the last year, we were really starting to feel that we had to do something with our space, even if it was on a short-term basis,” said Baiden.

“We did a comprehensive assessment of every single space within this building and what was recommended were considerable renovations and infrastructure upgrades.”

The total cost of the renovations came up to $8.3 million including $3 million in mechanical and electrical improvements “for which there isn’t funding available.”

Police continue to explore additional space, but Baiden said these are all “very short-term fixes.”

“As you can see, there have been extensive efforts to secure facility funding and a commitment to police facilities and the need for addressing our shortcomings,” she said.

“We’ve instituted steps to mitigate risks, and many alternatives have been examined.”

Baiden added that the police service cannot continue to retrofit a facility “that is just not suitable.”

“We’ve done our work. We’ve come back with reports, and then been asked to look at other considerations,” she said.

“I personally think that we’ve exhausted all considerations. Adding campuses really continues to contribute to the inefficiency of the model.”

The police service intends to make a presentation before city council at a later date.

– The Sudbury Star

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