Two years ago a study informed the city of Rock Hill that its police department building didn't meet the needs of a 2008 department.
That's still the case in 2010. Officers work around cramped spaces and impromptu storage in the 25,710-square-foot law center on East Black Street in downtown Rock Hill.
"It's been documented many times. The facility is too small. That's really the whole story," said police Chief John Gregory. "For what we have now and what we need to do in the future, it's inadequate."
Since the 2008 staffing study pointed out the city law enforcement building as "substantially inadequate," Gregory said he has continued to bring the space issue to the attention of city officials. But right now, there's no source of funding to expand the building, said Assistant City Manager David Vehaun.
"There's no money for a bigger law center," said city spokeswoman Lyn Garris. "The priority is keeping officers on the street. The priority is cars, gear for the officers to protect themselves, to protect the public. There are no plans to upgrade or replace law center now or in the immediate future."
Employees are working in confined spaces, including former closets and subdivided offices.
The municipal court uses the police department's training room for jury trials.
With two small interview rooms, officers sometimes have to conduct interviews in creative spaces that lack privacy.
The parking lot is too small, and there's no secure areas for officers' vehicles.
The department employs more than 170 officers and staff, and would like to add more administrative personnel, but there's no room for additional work spaces.
Finding a fix has been on the city's "radar," Gregory said, but nothing is happening now.
"The city manager and City Council are very aware. It has been talked about many times," Gregory said. "We do the best we can. We come here knowing we have to work around it.
"We'll find an empty spot. We'll go where we need to go. We do things off site.
"We have operational issues we have to work around on a daily basis. We used to be very frustrated. It's a challenge. Sooner or later, it will be rectified," he said.
Solving the problems would take a multi-million dollar investment to upfit the law center or to build a new facility to sustain the department for the next 50 years, Gregory said.
The inadequate size of the building was pointed out again as a negative by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies when Rock Hill police received national recognition last year as one of 23 Flagship Agency Award winners.
Because jury trials are held in the same room the department uses for training and staff meetings, a lot of coordination is needed to develop meeting schedules, Gregory said.
Sharing the police training room with the Rock Hill's municipal court for jury trials has "had an impact on the amount of training opportunities the agency is able to afford its employees," the CALEA report said.
"Sometimes something happens when we need to use training room immediately, and there's a trial going on in our training room," Gregory said.
"We have inadequate interview rooms for suspect interviews. It goes on and on and on.
"We keep it neat so when people visit they can't tell, but if you go to my secretary's desk, she has boxes where her feet are. There's storage in the bathrooms," Gregory said. "We don't have enough space for all the files we have to keep here at the law center."
The department has two offices full of files.
Lt. Brad Redfearn, the department's spokesman, operates out of an office that used to be a closet for SWAT team equipment. Other, larger officers have been divided into multiple workspaces.
Solutions to the problem
The only satellite office for Rock Hill police is a community services office in the Hagins-Fewell neighborhood.
That building houses the Weed and Seed program, an initiative that brings police and social workers to the five most crime- ridden neighborhoods, and school resources officers.
One suggestion to alleviate the space issue, which the police department has looked at, is moving the drug unit to another building. But Gregory said losing the constant contact provided by being within the same building could be a problem.
Because drug activity is often linked to other violent crimes, communication between detectives, patrol officers and the drug unit is essential to prevent crime and catch criminals, he said.
Another suggestion -- to close the jail at Rock Hill's law center -- was struck down four years ago, when voters rejected a bond proposal that would have allowed for a joint jail with the York County Sheriff's Office in the eastern part of the county.
Had that happened, Gregory said, the city could have closed the jail and court at the law center and renovated the entire facility to create the space it needs.
"When that failed, it set us back," he said of the bond issue.
He said the city, county and area departments continue to talk about a regional justice center east of York, where the Moss Justice Center houses the detention center, sheriff's office and court rooms. But those talks are on hold.
"It's not that no one's doing anything but complaining about it," Gregory said.
"We're collaborating with the possibilities of a centralized detention center and freeing up space for us to renovate this building to a first class, 21st-century police department."
While the department seeks renovation or replacement, Rock Hill's officers work to continue a six-year trend to lowering crime. Officials attribute this to top-notch equipment, computers and vehicles.
Garris said a priority for the city is making sure there are enough officers on the street equipped to combat crime.
"There are virtually no upgrades going on anywhere in the City," Garris said. "We'd love to have a new law center, but until the economy turns around, no one is thinking about that."