Offices in the attic: Oxford Police Department seeks new space to meet community’s needs

Posted on Jun 28 2018 - 8:01am by Kiara Manning

The Oxford Police Department headquarters has become too crowded and outdated for modern-day use, and has been hoping to relocate its headquarters to the Oxford Elementary School campus.

OPD Captain Hildon Sessums believes this overcrowding situation is a representation of growing pains throughout Oxford. Although he appreciates the growth of the city, he said there needs to be a change soon.

Sessums said when the current headquarters was first built in 1984 on Molly Barr Road, there were around 20 police officers. Now, there are 73 officers, and the current police department is not what someone would imagine when thinking of a modern police department. He said that anytime the city grows, the police department grows with it.

Oxford Police Department Captain Sessums sits in his office. Photo by Christian Johnson

“It’s just inevitable the more civilians that you have the more police services you’re going to need,” Sessums said. “With that, you obviously have to have the room to put those officers and whether it’s moving to the Oxford Elementary School, or buying new land to build a completely new police department, something’s going to have to give eventually.”

The locker room in the Oxford Police Department headquarters is too small for the number of officers, forcing some to share lockers and leaving many more without them.
“This was built for a good size back in the 80s,” Captain Sessums said, “but now we’re to the point where it’s not what you’d expect a modern police department to have.” Photo by Christian Johnson

Sessums said the police department has become so crowded that the city has laid drywall and installed air conditioning units in the attic so that officers can work up there.

“The biggest thing is that you plan for the future,” Sessums said. “Any time you build a new department or you move to oxford elementary and renovate it, you’re planning for the future. You don’t want to be in the same place that we’re in now.”

The city had been in recent in negotiations with Oxford School District to settle on a price to purchase the elementary school building and relocate the police department there.

However, Oxford School District voted unanimously on Monday to reject all bids that were received for the purchase of Oxford Elementary School property. The vote comes after the city of Oxford and the school district negotiated on a price for the city to purchase the property.

The school district now plans to use the property as an administrative building once the new elementary school is built. Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey said the school district chose not to sell the building because of budget concerns for other ongoing projects.

“We need to stay consistent with the budget that was set for each project and we have already included some redesign of those spaces to get to the number we need,” Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey said. “Based on the information that was received (Monday) from the architect and construction managers, the projections are $1.5 million over on construction costs.”

One of many small closets used to store sensitive information sits in the cramped hallway of the Oxford Police department. It’s one of the reasons that the Department is running out of space.
“This was built for a good size back in the 80s,” Captain Sessums said, “but now we’re to the point where it’s not what you’d expect a modern police department to have.” Photo by Christian Johnson

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she and the city had hoped to provide Oxford School District with a fair market price for the Oxford Elementary School property to provide a needed space for OPD and a way not to raise taxes for taxpayers.

“I am disappointed with the decision by the school board,” Tannehill said. “I still maintain that the City taxpayers offered a very fair price for the school property. As that option appears to be off the table, we will now move forward with how to provide additional space for our police department.”

Oxford Alderman John Morgan said he is also disappointed in the decision to not sell the school and instead use it as an administration building.“I understand that they are in a cash crunch, but it seems like to me that $2 million could definitely help,” Morgan said.  “Another observation is that Oxford Elementary would seem to be an awfully large building to become an administration building, but I’m sure they have other ideas for it of which I am not aware. We look forward to working with them where we can and I thank them for their hard work.”

Tannehill and the Board of Alderman will now consider other options to relocate OPD offices.