Dallas Police Headquarters Enhances Security

Physical Security

​​​​Photo by Chad Davis Photography​​

A Security Revolution
 
Threats change, and security adapts to mitigate them. That was the case in June 2015 when a gunman opened fire on the Jack Evans Police Headquarters building in Dallas, sowing chaos and instilling fear in the officers who worked in the facility.

The gunman had a misplaced grudge against the police—whom he blamed for separating him from his child—and decided to act on it. He bought an armored van on eBay, complete with ballistic glass and gun ports in the sides and rear doors. He built a pipe bomb and placed it in the visitor’s parking lot at the headquarters facility.

Then, he drove to the front of the building, parked at the curb in a spot that provided him with a view of the lobby and the officers working inside, and opened fire with a military-grade rifle. Bullets flew through the glass front of the building, with some going through various office structures inside and reaching the building’s rear offices. 

Police rapidly responded, the gunman fled the scene, and he was ultimately caught at a second location. No officers or civilians were physically harmed. But the incident drew attention to a rising threat—individuals armed with high-power rifles who choose to target police—and the need to enhance security at the headquarters facility, says Paul Schuster, senior corporal, facilities management, for the Dallas Police Department’s Administrative Support Bureau.

The headquarters building was designed by McClaren Wilson Lawrie Architects before 2001. At the time, the main threats the security team was concerned about were bombs—like the Oklahoma City bombing—and visitors with concealed handguns.

“There was a discussion about how open we wanted the building because we wanted it to embrace the idea of community policing—developing those relationships with citizens you serve so they’re more willing to work with police to solve crimes,” Schuster explains. “We didn’t want a building that looked like a fortress. We wanted it to be inviting, so there’s a lot of glass in the lobby.”

The lobby was designed and built as a two-story glass-walled structure that housed information and public records service desk windows. Visitors could enter the lobby through Boon Edam’s low-height Transpalock 900 turnstiles and were only screened in a side area if they planned to visit the investigative areas on the upper floors of the building.

The records service windows were made of ballistic handgun-rated glass, similar to bank teller windows, and the surrounding walls were built with ballistic-rated materials to prevent handgun rounds from piercing them. The information desk on the side of the lobby was also ballistically handgun-rated, but was not enclosed by glass. 

After the 2015 shooting, the department knew it needed to enhance its lobby security to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future. It worked with architecture firm Gensler Architects and security consultant Guidepost Solutions, LLC, to conduct a security assessment at the headquarters facility and seven patrol stations.

The assessment was completed in 2016 and included testing of various construction materials for bullet resistance. The department then secured $1.3 million in funding to upgrade the lobbies of the patrol stations to withstand rifle rounds. 

It also began a $2 million renovation project at headquarters to improve the security of the lobby and upgrade the building’s security system, which was 15 years old. 

“Changing the front of the building to support ballistic rifle-rated glass would have taken extensive time, exposed the inside of the lobby to weather, and would not have solved all of the security issues we faced,” Schuster says. 

Instead, the department decided to keep the existing glass exterior and add a layer of security inside the building to address access control. 

Initially, the project managers discussed installing x-ray and metal detectors at the front door of the building to immediately screen visitors upon their arrival. But this would still allow people to enter the building with a weapon and open fire on visitors and officers manning the screening system.

The solution was to create a separate screening area in an unused classroom to the side of the lobby of the building where x-ray scans and metal detection could be conducted. Visitors would enter the front doors to this room, and a new wall would be built inside the lobby to channel visitors into the area for screening. The wall was made from bullet-rated glass and bullet-resistant wall materials to blend in with the existing lobby’s aesthetic. 

As an additional security measure, Boon Edam’s Tourlock 180+90 turnstiles were installed to limit access into the lobby after visitors were screened. Schuster adds that the department was attracted to the Tourlock system because officers had seen it in use at U.S. federal facilities. The headquarters designers had considered installing a similar solution in the building when it was first constructed. 

The revolving-door style turnstile can detect if more than one person is attempting to enter. If it senses more than one person in the turnstile, it will prevent the individuals from entering. This has become especially important because protestors occasionally picket in front of the headquarters facility. 

“We are concerned they might rush the building, so we need to keep them from coming in,” Schuster says. 

 The turnstile is supported by a battery back-up and is on the facility’s emergency generator, so if the power were to go out, the turnstile would still work. And in case of a fire, or similar instances when a large number of people would need to evacuate from the building, the turnstile collapses in the center to allow people to freely exit the building while preventing reentry.

The department has also set up an alternative entry system for special needs individuals, such as those in wheelchairs—which do not fit inside the turnstile. Schuster says the department created a side door entrance off the main visitor entrance that can be opened by an officer using his or her access card.

“We don’t get that many [visitors with disabilities], so it has not been a problem to let people in this way,” Schuster says. “Our security officers can assist people on an individual basis.”

Since the lobby renovation, the department is continuously assessing its facility headquarters—especially in light of increased threats to law enforcement across the United States and in Dallas itself.

Just over a year after the 2015 shooting, a gunman targeted police officers who were on duty at a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest. He killed four police officers and one transit police officer using a military-style assault rifle. 

“We never anticipated that people would be so bold as to use rifles,” Schuster says of attacks on police officers. “It’s hard to prevent every type of incident, but once an incident happens, employees have a heightened awareness of their safety and security, and we need to address it.” 

For More Information: Tracie Thomas, Boon Edam, [email protected]