Police officers will be pulled out of City Police Station leaving just a skeleton staff after the ACT's top cop declared the building was no longer a safe workplace.
Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan, who has said the building is "not fit for purpose", is understood to have told officers on Wednesday afternoon the building was not a suitable working environment and most of those working there would be moved out no later than February 14.
The Canberra Times understands the officers and staff from the building's ground floor will be moved to the Edmund Barton Building, the national headquarters of the Australian Federal Police, and potentially other police stations across the capital.
A police spokesman said water damage from recent rain meant ACT Policing staff would be moved for the "foreseeable" future.
"Front Office and Watch House operations will continue as normal at the station. Monitoring of building issues in other parts of the premises will continue to ensure these areas remain safe to work in," the spokesman said.
The spokesman said there would be no impact on ACT Policing's service in Canberra's city district.
"While this decision has not been taken lightly, the safety and amenity for our staff remains our priority. ACT Policing is working the Justice and Community Safety Directorate to remediate damage and determine the cause of the leaks," the spokesman said.
"The ACT Policing executive would like to thank affected staff for their continued patience while these issues are rectified."
Deputy Commissioner Gaughan has previously raised the issue of the station, pointing to a need to increase both the number of police officers in the ACT and improve equipment and resources.
"The buildings need to be replaced; City Station was built in 1966. It's not fit for purpose. The watch house is not fit for purpose," Deputy Commissioner Gaughan told The Canberra Times last month.
"We need a new [City] station; I've been banging on about this for three years."
Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said the watch house neeed to be close to the courts and it needed to be at ground level.
"Let's use Victoria as an example; they built a new HQ in Spencer St and they put a police station next to it. The police station has a watch house in it. So the plans exist in other jurisdictions so I don't think it's that complicated," he said.
"Yes, it [the watch house] is a complication but we need to future proof it; there's no point in building a watch house for 470,000 people. If we are going to use it for the next 20 years it needs to be built for a population of three-quarters of a million [people]."
Australian Federal Police Association president Alex Caruana said the condition of City Police Station had concerned the association or some time.
"We welcome the decision to remove staff from the building as it isn't fit to be a functioning police station in its current state," Mr Caruana said.
"We have been informing the ACT government for some time that the condition of ACT Policing accommodation needs to be addressed."
Mr Caruana said the association would continue lobbying the ACT government to increase the standard of police accommodation.
"Along with better accommodation needed for ACT Policing members, the ACT government needs to plan for the future. With the upcoming election, one of our election initiatives will be calling for planning to commence on a new City Police Station," he said.
James Milligan, the opposition spokesman on police, said the closure of City Police Station showed the government's continued neglect of emergency services.
"Not only does the ACT continue to have the lowest number of police per capita in in the country but our hardworking police officers are not provided with adequate stations," Mr Milligan said.
"For the last four years I have been calling on this government to do something about the Gungahlin JESC which is also unfit.
"Our hardworking police deserve to be supported by the government and it is disappointing they are not receiving that support from this Police Minister who continues to fail in his portfolio."
The Canberra Times has contacted Police Minister Mick Gentleman for comment.
City Police Station flooded after heavy rain in 2017, which forced the evacuation of the ACT Watch House.
A heavy hailstorm in 2006 caused the roof to collapse and left the top floor unusable for months, a Legislative Assembly inquiry was told in 2020.
The 2019-20 ACT budget included $9.2 million over four years to upgrade ACT Policing facilities.
The government spent $305,000 a roof gutter assessment and eave replacement project at City Police Station in 2020.
The government foreshadowed a public-private partnership as an option to deliver a new police centre in the city.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr last year said discussions with the Chief Police Officer and AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw around possible city sites would note "it's important to note that government doesn't have to build or own the buildings that the stations are located in".
Jason Taylor, a former police officer and Belco Party candidate, said the Canberra community would suffer as a result of the closure of parts of the station, which he said exemplified the government's contempt towards police.
"I applaud Deputy Commissioner Gaughan for having the coverage to make this decision, as standing up to this government in this manner must not have been an easy decision. I commenced my career with ACT Policing in 2007 and City Police Station wasn't a fit-for-purpose facility back then, let alone two decades later," Mr Taylor said.
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