State opens new criminal justice training center

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -From the very old to the very new.

"Training is the lifeblood of any professional police officer," said Col. Chris Murphy, Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

And that training took on even more significance with the governor along with state and local leaders cutting the ceremonial ribbon Thursday morning, slicing away from the past at Craig Field to the new Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center at Wallace Community College.

The facility has 6 buildings including two dorms and the latest training techniques.

Governor Bob Riley, for example, got into a simulator designed to teach trooper recruits all the things they need to know when they're behind the wheel during a chase or an emergency.

"It's better to crash and burn here than on the road," said Captain Damon Summers.

In all the training center offers 25 courses, a combination of academics and the practical side of law enforcement.

Long overdue according to Terry King, an instructor at the academy and a veteran trooper.

"It got to the point where the air wouldn't work in the summer time and the heat wouldn't work in the winter," King said of the old buildings built in the 1950's.

The new center costs a little more than $24 million. You have to wonder where the money came from during an era of proration and state budget cuts.

State leaders say the money came from an education bond issue in which Alabama borrowed $1 billion in 2007 when times were good. Even though the economy has since soured, the Alabama Speaker of the House says he has no regrets.

"This had to be done. While the old facility is only a few miles away from this new one, they're light years apart," said Speaker Seth Hammett.

WSFA 12 News has learned 7 other Alabama cities lobbied to have the training center built in their towns but the governor felt it made sense to keep it in Selma. This time on the campus of Wallace Community College.

"Historically it's always been here and Selma was the foundation for it," said Mr. Riley.

While the politicians look at the center with a source of pride troopers like Damon Summers feel the pride in a different way. It's more personal.

The trooper seal is embedded in the foyer floor on the both ends of the academic building.

"This is our identity," said Summers.

No small thing for those who put it on the line every single day.

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