DeKalb Police Headquarters: Future-Ready Design for Law Enforcement

In late 2012, the DeKalb Police Department in Illinois introduced “20/20: A Clear Vision for the Future,” a strategic plan for long-term policing. The plan outlined 20 initiatives to be implemented over the next 20 months, including training initiatives, new community outreach programs, and other proactive policing strategies.

Among the priorities were several co-policing initiatives between the DeKalb Police Department and the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Police Department. City and campus police regularly team up to reduce crime and serve local residents as well as more than 20,000 students attending the state’s second largest university. That collaboration proved critical in 2008, when police responded quickly after a gunman opened fire in a lecture hall on the campus, killing five and wounding 21.

Exterior at night
A landscaped plaza, flag court, and two-story entry welcome the public into the new DeKalb Police Headquarters.

Community Outreach

As the police force addressed its “20/20” goals, the department also opened its new headquarters directly across from the NIU campus. The building was sited and designed with many of DeKalb’s long-term policing strategies in mind, as well as a clear focus on safety and security. The headquarters is a vibrant hub for law enforcement in a highly visible setting, and has improved connections to the campus and community. The new location has also reduced response times, improving service to areas where a dispatch analysis had indicated calls were most frequent.

Our team of architects and engineers worked closely with police leadership to address the design and orientation of the two-story building. While security was paramount, the DeKalb Police Department also sought a welcoming facility that would offer flexible space for community meetings and events. A two-story entry, currently flanked by large and colorful NIU sports graphics, invites the public into the headquarters. Ample glass in the main entry and throughout the public spaces supports transparency in the police-community relationship.

training room
Three meeting rooms in the 35,000-square-foot building are used regularly by civic and student groups, supporting the police force vision for stronger community ties. The NIU student council, fraternities and sororities, DeKalb Public Library, and local non-profits meet there frequently.

Three meeting rooms are used regularly by the community, NIU students, and both the city and campus police for meetings, workshops, and training sessions. Groups using the meeting rooms have ranged from NIU fraternities and sororities to the local chamber of commerce and the boy scouts. A prominent exhibit displays the police mission: “The members of the DeKalb Police Department are committed to reducing crime and enhancing the quality of life through an active partnership with our community.”

fitness center
Amenities for staff include a spacious fitness area, showers, and lockers.

Future-Ready Design

Just a few years out from the tragic campus shooting, the DeKalb Police Department knows that it must always be prepared to respond on a moment’s notice. The new headquarters supports that mission, but is also designed to help meet the department’s needs in the decades ahead. Police equipment and technology are constantly evolving, training requirements change, security protocols continue to develop, and staffing needs and programs may increase. The building’s “future-ready” design provides inherent flexibility and room for growth—easily accommodating, for example, an expansion of the city’s 911 dispatch area or equipment maintenance and storage spaces. With its flexible, efficient, and functional spaces, the DeKalb Police Headquarters is helping to support the department’s mission, now and in the future.

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