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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The building that formerly held the Oklahoma City Police Department Headquarters and the Oklahoma City Municipal Courts is currently being demolished to build a surface parking lot in downtown Oklahoma City.

The oldest police station on the west end of the block that contained the city jail is left untouched for now. It was built much earlier than the parts being torn down.

Some consider that part facing Walker to be a historic structure that needs to be preserved. Some consider it to be a significant portion of the Oklahoma City municipal building boom during the Great Depression with New Deal money that produced some of Oklahoma City’s most significant Deco architecture.

Others value it because, in the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights leader Clara Luper and other protesters spent many hours in the city jail for their actions.

For the time being, it is not being wrecked but has been unoccupied for years.

Police jail
The old OKC Police HQ and City Jail at N. Walker and Colcord being saved for now. (file, BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

The part being demolished (feature photo) includes a series of add-ons over the years on the eastern two-thirds of the block first for the municipal courts and then the largest portion being the police headquarters built in 1965.

Police Headquarters

For years that central headquarters was the only police station where all operations happened including gassing up patrol cars in the sunken parking garage of the facility.

Eventually, the city and the department expanded their operations to separate division stations located in different parts of the city closer to where the assigned officers would patrol. The central police station became the central office of the department.

But, time took its toll on the building when flooding caused concerns about mold, among many other problems due to age and outdated design.

The new OCPD HQ, officially opened in late 2015, is located at 700 Colcord, directly south across the street from the block with the old HQ and the old city jail. 

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Oklahoma City Police Department Headquaters, 700 Couch Drive. Opened in 2015. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Municipal Courts

Free Press reported the problems with the old Municipal Courts building in 2017 upon the opening of the new courts complex north across the street.

“For the public who had to visit, [the old Municipal Courts building] could be an overwhelming experience just finding one’s way through the labyrinth of hallways to the right courtroom at the right time.

Tightly-packed hallways were hard to get through and signs were hard to read. Attorneys had no place to confer with their clients except in hushed tones in the overcrowded hallways. Technology in the courtrooms was minimal with attorneys sometimes having to approach the bench with their laptops to show judges video as a part of their case.”

The new municipal courts complex at 701 Couch Drive opened in September of 2017.

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The Municipal Court Building for the City of Oklahoma City at 701 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City. Opened in 2017. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Plans

When the structure is destroyed, a new surface parking lot will be constructed in the space between the Civic Center and the old Municipal Jail.

A parking study for Downtown Oklahoma City presented in February of 2020 shows that in the area between NW 13th and Oklahoma City Boulevard and I-235 and Classen Drive, peak parking occupancy was 36%. That is an area of 1,200 acres, 256 acres of which are dedicated to parking.

In recent years the Police Department has lobbied to destroy the old jail, as well. The department claimed that they needed new surface parking for crime victims coming to the HQ for victims’ services. This was proposed in spite of ample street parking around the headquarters.

A group of citizens and developers intervened pleading with the city to hold off on destroying the original historic building on the west end of the property so that another use could be found.

No group stepped forward to save the former Police and Courts building.

The City was unwilling to supply any renderings of the proposed parking area yet. Kristy Yager with the City said the plans for the lot are “still in flux.”

Demolition of the building has already begun. The first steps include demolishing the underground parking area so that rubble from the building’s demolition can be used to fill that hole.

The Public Information Office of the City of Oklahoma City informed Free Press that an update on demolition will be available after August 30. Free Press will update readers as details emerge.

The Department intends to announce the date of the demolition of the facade of the building soon. Retired officers will be invited to come and witness the demolition.

Significance

This is a video produced by the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Public Information Office. Chief Wade Gourley talks about the significance of leaving the old HQ for the new one and what the old one represented to officers at the time.

Last Updated August 25, 2021, 4:58 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor