San Mateo turns old fire station into sleeping barracks for officers with long commutes

In San Mateo's Parkside neighborhood, a familiar place offers a respite for weary police officers.

"This is the home away from home for our police officers," said Sgt. Michael Haobsh with the San Mateo Police Department.

The city converted an old fire station into a police substation with sleeping barracks that can house up to 12 officers for overnight stays. A kitchen, bath, shower, and workspaces are some of the amenities.

The barracks replace the old option of sleeping at police headquarters during short turnarounds on shifts that can last up to 17 hours.


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"We need a place to refresh in between our shifts. And so having these barracks here helps with that tremendously," said Haobsh.

In 2017, an accident involving a San Mateo police officer who had a long commute home after a shift highlighted the problem the police department and many others have. Seventy percent of the 115 sworn officers in San Mateo don't live in the city due to the high housing costs.

"I live all the way down in Hollister actually," said Officer Ryan Alba. 

Alba said his commute can be three hours each way on some days. And at the end of a 17-hour shift, there’s no time to go home and be back for work.

Alba said he wouldn't be able to do the 160-mile roundtrip commute and work as an officer in San Mateo without the barracks. 

"I don’t think I could be able to remain in San Mateo," he said. "Without this, it would be quite a strain, and I’d have to sit down and rethink my personal life."

The 12 beds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, through a digital sign-up.

Command staff says the officers police themselves, and there haven't been any problems.

They said the barracks’ feather-soft beds and quiet conditions are helping keep the city’s cops at peak performance.

"Help those officers get recharged, refreshed, and ready to go out there and serve the community," Haobsh said.