Top cop is project chief

Lincoln City Police Chief Jerry Palmer, in charge of the project to erect a new $14.2 million police headquarters, said nobody was ready for the challenges posed by the cutting-edge design. (Photo by Rick Beasley)

LINCOLN CITY — Police Chief Jerry Palmer has commanded outposts of hard-nosed state troopers, savvy undercover drug teams and unbending traffic cops, but he’s never been in charge of anything like the construction of Lincoln City’s new police headquarters.

“The amount of detail and minutiae is off the charts,” said Palmer, who was put in overall charge of the $12.5 million job by the city council in 2018, after years of planning and debate over its cost and location. “It’s like building a jumbo jet or an aircraft carrier.”

The building’s cutting-edge design stumped builders at first, who were new to the challenge of the structure’s mesh of art, wood, composites, skylights and steel that come together in striking angles and a dramatic, sloping roof.

“Steel holds it all up, and from a construction point, it was far more complex than even the contractors thought in the beginning,” remarked Palmer, who spent 28 years with the Oregon State Police before joining Lincoln City Police Department as a lieutenant in 2007. “This type of building has not been done much in the Pacific Northwest.”

Federal and state emergency officials were breathing down the city’s neck in 2016, citing a substandard booking area, poor officer safety and the existing building’s vulnerability to an earthquake. At 8,000 square feet, Palmer described the former ambulance barn as a “hodgepodge” of undersized offices and spaces, including a cramped evidence room exuding the odors of seized drugs and mildewed homeless camps.

At 18,000 square feet, the new building boasts a roomy, vented evidence area, a dispatch department, break rooms, locker rooms and a gym for officers. Designed to enhance the “flow” of police work. From a drive-through sally port to the holding cells, the two-floor building promises to welcome the law-abiding with a community room and full kitchen for public meetings.

Ground was broken on the construction site in July, 2019, with completion forecasted for sometime this summer. The building will house 41 police department employees and about a dozen workers in the 24-hour emergency dispatch unit.

Palmer, appointed chief in 2018, said the new building will open at a time of renewed enthusiasm among officers and citizens for their police department. Business is good, he reflected.

“Traffic stops are up over 40 percent, day-to-day activities are up and major crimes like burglaries are on a downward trend,” stated Palmer. “We’re a lot more engaged with the community and the bad guys out there.”

Applications for the police department’s “Citizen’s Academy” are up, and a recent fundraising drive to acquire a K9 police dog exceeded the goal.

“The support and respect shown our officers has been tremendous,” Palmer said, claiming the tight bond between cops and residents has allowed the agency to “intercept” outlaws before they commit more crimes. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

He also gave credit to the 30 certified officers under his command.

“I’ve never been prouder of a group of people,” concluded Palmer. ”I’d stack them up against any police agency across the nation.”

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