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New building better for police

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Posted at 7:14 PM, Nov 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-08 21:27:24-05

Since 1981, the Billings Police Department has used a tin shack, a cramped space on the third floor at city hall and a small building for processing evidence.

Chief Rich St. John talked about those challenges at a dedication for a new building on Wednesday.

The facility is crucial to investigators and prosecutors.

"Everything that the police department does in a case is tied somewhat to the evidence that is taken upon the scene to prove a crime or to use it in, in a court for prosecution," said Lt. Mitch Hart, evidence facility property manager. "And then also the defense of the innocent. We're in a support role here for the officers."

The add-on to the new building nearly triples the space from 6,000 square feet to 16,000 square feet.

There are more places to store evidence.

“We have what we call evidence purge," Hart said. "And we can actually get rid of those items and make room for new items coming in. The building design along with our purge operations, we'll hopefully have a good 10 to 15 years before we run into any type of problems."

And there's more room to work.

"The way we built it along the standards of the operating procedures of either larger facilities, let’s say urban metropolitan areas so we have a lot of the security aspect and a lot of the evidence flow aspect which makes it easier on our evidence techs,” Hart said.

The new building has some of the latest technology.

"In our old facility, the ventilation wasn’t there," Hart said. "The odor of evidence in general and we were working right in the middle of it. Now the new design where it pulls air out and filtrates the air, we don’t get that anymore.”

Mayor Bill Cole and Chief Rich St. John helped celebrate the new facility last week.

"We dedicate this building, knowing that it will serve the police department, citizens and our justice system for years to come," St. John said.

The new facility cost $3.8 million and was paid with South Billings Urban Renewal tax increment finance funds.