Long-awaited police station offers promise for Miami-Dade’s Northside District

07/30/2014 8:10 AM

07/30/2014 8:11 AM

A man paced inside an interrogation room, peering into a one-way reflective window.

On the other side of the glass, invisible to the suspect, Miami-Dade police officer Elvis Martinez sat at a work station doing paperwork and updating another officer who works with federal agents on homeland security issues.

The coordination was orderly and efficient, a breakthrough for a police squad that had been working in an outdated building before recently moving into this new police station in North Central Miami-Dade.

It was unfortunate, though, for the suspect, who police say stole a car and used the owner’s cellphone to dial 911, demanding to speak with President Barack Obama or threatening to set off a nuclear bomb.

In the old building, Martinez said he would have had to search out a free desk — probably far from the sight of the suspect, maybe on a different floor — just to get paperwork done.

“I’d have been at some detective’s desk somewhere. Who knows?” Martinez said. “Now I can keep an eye on him in case he tries to injure himself. I can contact Homeland Security from here.”

Though operational for several weeks, Friday marks the official opening of the county’s long-awaited Northside police station. The 217,000-square-foot two-story facility at 799 NW 81st St. has a circular bullet-proof reception desk, four jail cells, an armory, plenty of work space, several conference rooms and a body shop and filling station out back.

The building will house 214 sworn and civilian police personnel, and even has room for the only cold case squad in Miami-Dade.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime, who has been pushing for the station’s opening through more than two years of delays, even believes it can be an economic driver in a downtrodden neighborhood.

“Police presence is going to make people more comfortable in investing in the area,” said Monestime, up for reelection at the end of August against former Commissioner Dorren Rolle. “If government invests there, the belief is private development will follow.”

Monestime got a tour of the station last week, along with Police Capt. Ishmael Nizam, who runs the building, and Administrative Lt. Adrian Cummings.

“They were kind enough to give us some bullet-proof glass,” Ishmael said, showcasing the reception area and its up-to-date technology for the commissioner.

Still, the construction of the building didn’t come without kinks.

The building was mandated by a public bond vote in 2004. Though the county’s official word is that the building opened two years late, it was one of the first projects expected to be built from the bond offering and should have opened long before 2012.

With a price tag of $9.6 million, the county said overruns came to $524,841. Delays, according to Monestime’s office, were caused by a combination of electrical problems, the termination of contractors, design revisions, even a redesign of the bullet-proof glass that is the centerpiece of the Art Deco-ish lobby.

Still, senior staff at the new facility say the building will go a long way toward increasing productivity that will be felt outside the walls of the police station.

“People are walking around smiling a little bit more,” Nizam said.

Said Cummings: “The building itself is an administrative location. Our responsibility is still to patrol the streets. The building isn’t going to shift our job. But if you spend eight hours in this place, it lifts the mood. And that should help output.”

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