City breaks ground at new NE police training center

Cap­ping years of plan­ning, ground was broken at the city’s new po­lice train­ing cen­ter off Wood­haven Road on Monday morn­ing.

As it usu­ally is, the break­ing of ground was a purely ce­re­mo­ni­al event in­volving dig­nit­ar­ies with shiny shovels. However, this time, it was not on a va­cant par­cel. The build­ing that will have 87,000 square feet of space for po­lice re­cruits and vet­er­an of­ficers already stands.

What was once the Phil­adelphia Me­mori­al Armed Forces Re­serve Cen­ter off the non­ex­press­way west­bound lanes of Wood­haven Road in Nor­mandy be­came city prop­erty last year, May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter told a small group gathered out­side the build­ing. It’s something city gov­ern­ment has had its eye on since 2005, he said, when the U.S. De­fense De­part­ment an­nounced it would be sur­plus prop­erty.

City of­fi­cials began talk­ing up tak­ing over the prop­erty a few years ago, and they made present­a­tions to mem­bers of the Nor­mandy Civic As­so­ci­ation.

Nut­ter said the idea of put­ting all the city’s po­lice train­ing fa­cil­it­ies in one, state-of-the-art and cent­ral­ized loc­a­tion was well-re­ceived in the North­east.

“Thanks for wel­com­ing us to the neigh­bor­hood,” he said.

The may­or said the new train­ing cen­ter, when it opens in May 2015, will serve up to 300 re­cruits and provide ad­di­tion­al train­ing for 400 vet­er­an of­ficers. The fa­cil­ity will have a staff of 140. Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey said the de­part­ment’s academy on State Road is aging and small, and that train­ing cur­rently is di­vided up in­to dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions. The cen­ter will be a high-tech, green build­ing, he said, that will use rain­wa­ter that’s gathered on its roof. It will be a great fa­cil­ity that will provide un­par­alleled train­ing, he said.

“Our po­lice of­ficers de­serve noth­ing less,” the may­or said.

It will give Phil­adelphia the best-trained po­lice force in the coun­try, City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on (D-6th dist.) said.

John Wis­niewski, pres­id­ent of the Nor­mandy Civic As­so­ci­ation, re­called play­ing bas­ket­ball in the re­serve cen­ter as a kid. “They were great. They would in­vite us in,” he said. Barry Rauch, the civic’s vice pres­id­ent, said the neigh­bor­hood re­garded the re­serve cen­ter as a good neigh­bor even though the re­serv­ists were up early on week­ends run­ning through Nor­mandy as part of their phys­ic­al train­ing.

Among the oth­er dig­nit­ar­ies present at Monday’s ground­break­ing were City Coun­cil­man Den­nis O’Bri­en (R-at large), state Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th dist.), state Sen. Tina Tartagli­one (D-2nd dist.) and Deputy May­or of Pub­lic Safety Ever­ett Gil­lis­on, who ac­ted as mas­ter of ce­re­mon­ies. ••

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