After being forced to leave it empty for almost two years because of staffing shortages, the Los Angeles Police Department opened its new central jail Wednesday.
The 172,000-square-foot downtown facility, which carried a final price tag of $84 million, was essentially completed in May 2009. The LAPD kept it mothballed, however, because it required a significantly larger staff to operate than the smaller jail it is replacing. A citywide hiring freeze, imposed as the city plummeted further into its fiscal crisis, prevented the department from hiring the additional detention officers it needed.
In October, after unsuccessful attempts to win a hiring exception from city officials, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck decided he could wait no longer to close down the dilapidated, decades-old structure attached to Parker Center, the former LAPD headquarters. Beck announced a controversial plan to open the new Metropolitan Detention Center by taking about 90 police officers off patrol assignments to help run the new facility.
Since then, the department has been training the first crop of officers, who are expected to remain at the jail for about six months, after which another group will cycle in.