‘We’re open for business’

Members of the Prince Albert Police Service, Prince Albert Grand Council, Board of Police Commissioners and the city attended the grand opening of the new substation on Nov. 19, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

New downtown police substation opens to ceremony, fanfare and a warm community welcome

Prince Albert’s second police station is up and running.

Tuesday morning about 75 people, including on and off-duty police officers, dignitaries and community members packed into the former Conexus Credit Union building and cut the yellow police tape to officially open the Prince Albert Police Service substation on 10th Street East.

Board of Police Commissioners Chair Sheryl Kimbley cuts police tape instead of a ribbon to officially open the new downtown substation on Nov. 19, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The station, which is built to house 40 staff members, will help to alleviate overcrowding and cut down on the police department’s use of rented space.

The new location is also designed to make things more comfortable for victims of crime.

“This facility is a long time coming,” said Board of Police Commissioners Chair Sheryl Kimbley after cutting the police tape with a pair of golden scissors.

“I believe that a good work environment builds good workers. When we did the tour when I first came on (the police board) of the station, all I could think of was how crowded and how hard it would be to do the work that our wonderful police have to do.”

The old police station was built in the 1980s and intended to house about 60 officers. Prince Albert’s police force now has over 100.

Officers were split across four locations, the main station and three rented offices. The new building will reduce that to just two, allowing for closer coordination among the police service’s various teams.

The benefit of renovating an existing building is the price and time requirements are significantly less than if the forcer were to attempt to build a whole new facility.

“The plan to replace or build a new, extremely expensive building wasn’t an option for the economic environment we’re in,” police Chief Jon Bergen said.

“This definitely provides our immediate needs.”

Police Chief Jon Bergen speaks at the opening of the new substation on Nov. 19, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The police received permission from city council in April to buy the former bank building for $340,000. The renovations, which cost about $650,000, finished on time and on budget.

“My goal was aggressive but I knew I had the right staff in place to achieve that goal,” Bergen said.

“It was a very tight timeline and the contractors cooperated with us to make sure that we got it done.”

Tuesday’s grand opening began with a ceremonial parade where members marched from the old station to the new one. Then, the substation was blessed in a smudging ceremony and welcomed by a drum group.

Inside, visitors were treated to an open doors tour of the new location along with coffee and police badge-shaped cookies and cake.

Substation part of revitalization of downtown

Mayor Greg Dionne joined in the celebration of the grand opening and spoke about the importance of the substation to the city’s downtown.

“What’s exciting for me as mayor is new police station, new University of Saskatchewan, City Hall — this whole area is going to change. I believe this is going to change the face of the downtown,” he said.

During the renovations, downtown businesses had been commenting on the increased visibility of officers downtown, he said. That is expected to continue.

“This is going to draw tenants and new businesses because people are going to feel safe. That’s what you’ve got to deliver to your community.”

Kimbley agreed.

“The location itself speaks volumes to me. Downtown Prince Albert will rebuild,” she said.

“I’m tired of all of the people saying how terrible Prince Albert is. When we do that we teach our little ones to disrespect where they live and love. We need to make them understand that Prince Albert is a place we can love and respect. If we can make it safer for them, we’re going to have a safer Prince Albert.”

Board of Police Commissioners Chair Sheryl Kimbley speaks at the substation opening with deputy police Chief Jason Stonechild in the background on Nov. 19, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Building improves services for victims of crime

While the new substation will provide an increased police presence downtown, that’s not its only spinoff benefit, Bergen said Tuesday.

The new location will house Victim Services, the Indigenous Resource Officer and Missing Persons Liaison, as well as social services, the internet child exploitation unit, child protection, community safety officers, combined traffic services, traffic safety, the K9 unit, crime reduction team, community policing unit and community relations.

One thing many of those units have in common is they work closely with victims of crime.

“The substation will enhance our ability to demonstrate sensitivity to victims of crime with a warmer, non-criminal environment that focuses on assisting people with compassion, and with access to immediate resources,” Bergen said.

A crowd of dozens of people gathered outside of the substation waiting for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 19, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

He added that the atmosphere of the substation is such that victims won’t be going back into the police environment, which can be difficult, could remind them of the incident and could even possibly expose them to someone related to a current offence or arrest.

“It’s a healthier thing for them,” he said.

“We made sure to have the staff here that best support the victims.”

Dionne echoed Bergen’s thoughts.

“It’s just so much more comfortable. You’re not walking into a police station. You feel good when you come in here.”

The new substation will be open Monday to Friday from 8 until 4:30. It also houses a board room, classroom, gym and training area for staff.