A team of architects and planners have been volunteering their time to design a new Dallas Police Academy at the University of North Texas at Dallas.
They shared their latest renderings with the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Monday.
Renderings of the New Dallas Police Academy at UNT Dallas
The new training facility would be adjacent to a nature area, athletic fields and could have access to dormitories for recruits. Planners say it would be state of the art.
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Council Members were pleased with the University partnership that is envisioned but disappointed the project will take years.
“I love the academic focus this will bring to the police academy. I will say I’m a little bit concerned about how long this effort is going to take,” Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said.
The Dallas City Council recently extended the lease on the existing police academy near Dallas Executive Airport that was first rented 32 years ago as a temporary police academy.
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For one reason or another, several different plans over the years for a modern new academy have fallen through.
Mendelsohn said she was very disappointed when she first visited the current facility.
“The place is terrible. It is run down. It is small. It smelled bad. There is mold growing in the ladies' locker room. The exercise facility is tiny. It’s just not suited to be a police academy,” she said.
Over the years other cities have raced past Dallas in training facilities they offer in competition for the best recruits.
Fort Worth has an indoor urban village among other features at its police academy.
“Our's is not similar. It's not even in the same realm of what others are providing,” Mendelsohn said.
Consultant Leo Gonzalez told the City Council Monday that visiting the Dallas Police Academy helps demonstrate the urgency for the volunteer designers.
“The need is great,” he said.
The University of North Texas at Dallas President Bob Mong said private donors have indicated they may be willing to help pay for the project.
“We think we can create enough sense of urgency in the community to raise a lot of money for this project,” Mong said.
Dallas Council Members and police officials want hundreds more officers on the street but around 200 authorized for hiring in the current city budget may equal the number that leaves through attrition in the next year.
Hiring must ramp-up to increase manpower and officials say the current facility is inadequate.
Councilman Tennell Atkins who represents the area around UNT-Dallas said neighbors need to be closely involved in all the campus plans.
“We got to have our eyes wide open, with the community, how we’re going to develop that community,” Atkins said.
But so far there is not even a clear cost estimate for the academy project.
Planners estimate design may take 16 to 18 months and construction 24 to 30 months.
The Dallas City Council renewed the lease for another five years.
As much as city leaders want a top academy sooner, five years may be a realistic estimate of how much longer the outdated, old Dallas Police Academy may be needed.