A plan is in the works for a new Dallas Police Academy that would be hosted at the University of North Texas at Dallas.
The Campus on University Hills Boulevard north of I-20 in far southern Dallas has 264 acres that is mostly undeveloped.
UNT-Dallas President Bob Mong said two possible sites for a police academy have been identified, one at the far northeast corner of the campus on Camp Wisdom Road and another east of the DART rail station in the southeast portion of the campus.
“There are several universities in the country that house police academies. We studied them closely,” Mong said. “It brings the training of officers closer to academic research.”
It comes in the wake of police reform demonstrations this year when activists called for more social programs and de-escalation training for police to avoid the use of deadly force.
The current Dallas Police academy in rented space near Red Bird Lane came under scrutiny in city council discussions Wednesday about potential budget amendments.
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City council member Lee Kleinman said $23 million could be saved and dozens of training officers returned to patrol if Dallas immediately turned training over to existing community college programs.
“You need to get into an accredited institution and away from this bastion of indoctrination and intimidation that cadets get out of the academy,” Kleiman said.
None of the other city council members went along with Kleinman’s suggestion, but city officials agree the current training facilities are inadequate.
Last year Dallas Police welcomed the largest class ever of 82 new recruits. This year, because of coronavirus and the need for social distancing, classes are limited to just 25 recruits. It restricts Dallas police hiring.
Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said Dallas police recruit training is longer and superior to other agencies. She said the lack of any fatal Dallas police shootings this year is an example of training success.
“We have an expensive, high-quality training program and I would never want to give it up,” Mendelsohn said.
Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said Dallas has been exploring a partnership of the sort Kleinman suggested for the past 18 months that would provide 21st-century police principles and more modern, research-based methods.
Fortune said the DEAL that makes the most sense is with The University of North Texas at Dallas.
A memo about the plan to Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall from staff was shared with city council members this week, but construction could take years.
“Between now and when a facility is constructed, there’s no reason we can’t continue to talk to UNT-Dallas about how we can integrate those professionals and research facility and research resources into the training program, which is something we intend to do,” Fortune said.
Dallas leaders have also visited Fort Worth’s Police Academy. That city has room for an urban training village inside the facility and plenty of classroom space for social distancing.
UNT Dallas has plenty of land for construction.
The Caruth Police Institute is already housed on the campus and the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute is a partner.
Mong said UNT Dallas is working to make criminal justice education a center of excellence, to improve police-community relations.
“It’s instruction that I think helps to reduce the use of force. A healthier police department is a department that’s less likely to use force, one that isn’t stressed out,” Mong said.
Mong provided a March 2020 report about the project. He said he is working now to raise money for a study on the cost.
Mong said he expects the new study to demonstrate that a state of the art police academy would be a good long term investment for Dallas.