LAPD finally set to open its new central jail [Updated]
After being forced to leave it empty for almost two years because of staffing shortages, the Los Angeles Police Department plans to open a new central jail Wednesday.
The 172,000-square-foot facility, which carried a final price tag of $84 million to build, was more or less completed in May 2009, but the LAPD could not open it because it required a significantly larger staff to operate it than the smaller jail it is replacing. A citywide hiring freeze, imposed as Los Angeles plummeted further into its fiscal crisis, prevented the department from hiring the additional detention officers it needed.
In October, after unsuccessful attempts to win an exemption from city officials from the hiring ban, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck decided he could wait no longer to close the dilapidated, decades-old jail attached to Parker Center, the former LAPD headquarters. He announced a controversial plan to open the new Metropolitan Detention Center by taking about 90 police officers off patrol assignments and using them to help run the new facility.
Traditionally, the several jails the LAPD operates to hold detainees waiting to be arraigned have been run by civilian detention officers, instead of sworn police officers. In addition to Beck’s decision to use the officers to open the new jail, the department is shuttering four of its smaller jails in order to free up enough detention officers to staff the Metropolitan Detention Center.
City workers have been racing to finish a final list of work on the new jail before it opens. As of Monday evening, for example, the facility was still without hot water, said LAPD Cmdr. Scott Kroeber, who has overseen the transition.
Kroeber said he expected the jail, at Temple and Los Angeles streets in downtown L.A., to be up and running by midday Wednesday, after equipment and detainees from the Parker Center complex are transferred over.
The old facility is “a venerable but draconian facility,” Kroeber said. “But I got to tell you, all the machinations we’ve had to go through to get this space open have been tough. I can’t imagine a tougher time to try to do something like this.”
-- Joel Rubin
[For the record, 9:44 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the jail was at 1st and Main streets in downtown L.A.]