116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
HIAWATHA — After nearly 10 years of discussion and planning and roughly a year of construction, the Hiawatha Police Department’s campus has expanded to include a new public safety training facility.
The 7,200-square-foot building houses a gym and physical training facility, a classroom and a garage for department’s seven police cruisers, an operations trailer, some city vehicles and some other equipment.
Funding for the $999,000 building was approved and paid for through the city’s capital improvement process using a combination of dollars collected from the city’s local-option sales tax and general obligation bonds.
Hiawatha Police Chief Dennis Marks said the building has been in the works since 2011 when he started talking with city officials about the department’s need for additional space.
“Then in 2013 was the first time that the proposed facility was actually added to the capital improvement projects process that we go through every year — so 2013 was first time plans were really put on paper.”
In the eight years that followed, Marks said the plans for the new facility have been edited many times — starting with a new, larger garage and ending with a building that would give the department the space it needed to conduct regular officer training programs.
“Training is huge to the department and it’s huge to me,” Marks said. “It has been my mission to have the best trained officers that we can for our community. And so about eight years ago, we started with monthly training programs and it is mandatory for every officer, and we do all sorts of, you know, different things — we have a lot of in house certified instructors, but we didn’t have room conducive to doing the types of training we need to do.”
The Hiawatha City Hall building, which houses the police department, has a multipurpose room that all departments share, the chief said, and inside the police department is one small conference room. Neither of these spaces are ideal for certain physical activities like defensive tactics training or emergency medical training.
“Also, some of the things we have to train on are not really things we want to force other people in the building to be exposed to — such as training on traumatic injuries,” Marks said. “That could be something that civilians find disturbing.”
The new facility is divided into three sections.
There is a gym with a variety of workout machines and free weights, a shower room and large floor mat area where officers can do physical training drills. The workout equipment was paid for using drug forfeiture funds, the chief said.
There also is a large classroom with a drop-down screen and audio and visual equipment for education training and lectures. And finally, there is a large garage that can house the department’s entire fleet and comes equipped with trickle chargers that help keep the cruisers’ batteries charged. The chief said the electronics used in police cruisers are hard on batteries.
In the long run, Marks, said the new facility will serve as a valuable space that will protect the city’s vehicles and facilitate important training and education for the city’s officers — as well as other departments that are often invited to join on the activities.
Additionally, the chief said he believes the facility — especially the gym area — will likely help with officer recruitment and retention.
“We've got to do anything and everything we can to try to recruit new officers but also to keep them here,” he said. “So if you have a facility for them to train in or a facility for them to work out in, they might stay a bit longer. And we’re going to be hiring again soon, so I think we’ll start to see the benefits of this facility really quickly.”
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