Photos by Eric Marks
Reno Police Chief Jason Soto gave the media a tour of what will soon be the new police headquarters. It’s being dubbed the Public Safety Center—and it’s located in the enormous, 114,500-square-foot former offices of the Reno Gazette Journal on Kuenzli Street.
Soto said plans for a new police building have been talked about since before he joined the Reno force 25 years ago.
Retrofitting of the building will begin in August. It won’t be completed until 2024, but police officers and staff are expected to begin working out of the building in August.
One of the advantages of the larger space is that it will allow for all police evidence to be housed under a single roof. Currently, evidence is being stored at different locations around Reno. Soto said this can be quite cumbersome when evidence is needed for trials.
The Public Safety Center will also put police dispatch under the same roof as officers and other staff.
It’s being funded in part by a $5 million grant from the Pennington Foundation. The total remaining cost is estimated at $34.5 million.
Funding sources proposed for the current fiscal year are available now and do not impact any other areas of the city’s budget such as contingency, long term liabilities, capital already in progress, or capital already dedicated for a specific program. Over the next two years, funding will come from the sale of properties, pending settlements, annual savings, and other dedicated revenue sources.
The project is expected to be fully funded by 2023.
“We’ve talked about this for so many years. We keep pinching ourselves, like it’s finally happening.”
“I want to thank the Pennington Foundation for their generous donation of $5 million to make this happen,” Soto said. “I also want to thank our community from the bottom of my heart for the support that we’ve received. Ever since I’ve been at the agency—really, ever since we’ve been around—our community has been fantastic in supporting the police department.”
He also thanked Mayor Hillary Schieve and the members of the city council for approving the funding for the new public safety center. It’s called such, Soto said, because its goal is to place the community first, following the RPD’s motto, “Your police, our community.”
“Our current police station on 455 E. Second Street was built in 1947,” Soto said. “It was built for less than 50 police officers at the time. It’s extremely outdated. There’s a lot of problems in terms of size … plumbing, wiring, asbestos. It’s just a really, really old building.”
RPD now has about 500 employees.
“This really fits our needs,” Soto said. “It’s centrally located. Our response times will either remain the same or get better simply because of the location of the Public Safety Center.”
Soto stressed that the idea behind the Public Safety Center is to “integrate our community” into the police department.
“So, the idea with the public safety center is to have things under one roof—things such as dispatch, victim services, our Mobile Outreach Safety Team for people that are having challenges with mental health and are in crisis, our community engagement room where we can have interviews with media and faith-based groups and with different [groups] throughout our community,” he said.
“I just want to say thank you so much to Chief Soto,” said Schieve. “Honestly, we’ve talked about this for so many years. We keep pinching ourselves, like it’s finally happening. It’s finally happening—because I remember so many previous police chiefs having this vision and this dream. To see it come to fruition is pretty incredible.”