Nixa Police Department is growing right out of its headquarters with no solutions in sight

Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 6:25 PM CST
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NIXA, Mo. (KY3) - Police departments all across the country are dealing with workforce shortages and difficulty retaining officers.

But the Nixa Police Department is also having trouble just finding space for the 42 officers they do have.

Walk down the hallways of Nixa’s PD headquarters and you’ll see photos of department personnel over the years. In the earlier photos there are just six officers in the picture but that number steadily grows in photos from the later decades as the population of the town has increased as well.

In 1970 Nixa’s population was 1,636 but by 1990 it had more than doubled to 4,707. Between then and 2000 Nixa exploded in size by 157 percent to 12,124 and over the next 20 years the town again almost doubled in size to 23,257 in 2020.

“The demand for police services has never been greater,” said Nixa Police Chief Joe Campbell. “As we grow we’re certainly going to need a place to a put those officers.”

And right now with 42 officers and 50 employees total, they don’t have it.

“Last year we did a needs assessment of our building and what we learned is we have about 10,000 square-feet in our facility now,” Campbell said. “But based on the number of people we currently employ we need about 16,000 square-feet.”

An extra 6,000 square-feet would be like adding half-the-current-building to the headquarters and Campbell knows that’s a tall order.

“And even if we added that it only meets our needs today. As we continue to grow we’ve looked into building expansion, a remodel or finding a different piece of property and moving. But some of those costs become expediential when you’re talking about new construction. I am optimistic that we have a lot of support within the community for our police department. They understand we provide a vital service.”

As Campbell took KY3 on a tour of the police department it wasn’t like you were watching an episode of the TV show “Hoarders” but there were places where items were piled up and spaces that had been repurposed.

Campbell opened a large steel door that obviously looked like a jail cell.

“You can see this used to be a holding cell,” he said. “We were able to convert this into storage for guns and you can tell within a short amount of time we’re going to be running out of space here as well.”

The juvenile holding cell also has a new role.

“We were forced to convert this into file storage,” Campbell said.

The work space for sergeants and patrol officers is cramped and too small for everyone to be there at once.

“We have to rotate our officers in and out to allow them to work in these areas,” Campbell said.

Another office barely had room to open the door as a small desk took up almost the entire space with equipment and paperwork tucked into every corner.

“What we have here is our crime prevention office,” Campbell explained. “It actually was a storage space before this.”

Storage closets turned into offices....and the stuff in the storage areas moved to anyplace they can find.

“This room was actually our interview room prior to being converted over to a temporary evidence room,” Campbell said of another small office. “Now if we have to do a secondary interview we’ll have to leave our city and travel across the county over to Ozark and do the interview at the (Christian County) jail.”

So with officers traveling more and trying to find the time and space to do their reports Campbell believes the space and crowding situation is affecting his department’s ability to do its job.

“It becomes an efficiency issue,” he said. “And certainly officers from an attraction and retention standpoint wanna come to a place where they’re going to be supported in terms of being adequately equipped with the space and tools to do the job they’re being asked to do.”

Nixa Mayor Brian Steele was asked if he felt the police department’s funding was adequate.

“It’s enough to provide the very basics,” he answered. “We’ve added more than 50 percent new officers in the last 10 years and increased their pay from what today would be minimum wage to over $20 per hour starting salary. But things like a new multi-million dollar headquarters is something that we’ll have to figure out how to budget.”

For now there are no solutions although ARPA federal funds or local tax increases were mentioned as possibilities.

“Our sales tax rate is the lowest in the region,” Steele pointed out. “We could double our sales tax and still be less than Ozark and a penny-or-more less than Republic. We are considering whether or not to put that out there and let the voters have a choice of what priorities are the most important to them.”

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