Wichita State University, the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County are developing a partnership plan for a high-quality training facility for future generations of sheriff's deputies, police officers and criminal justice professionals.
The proposed Law Enforcement Training Center, which would be built on WSU's Innovation Campus, would provide training space and classrooms for the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department, Wichita Police Department (WPD) and the Wichita State University Criminal Justice program, which includes the Regional Community Policing Institute and the Midwest Criminal Justice Institute.
There is no final agreement among the parties, and any facility built on the university campus is subject to approval by the Kansas Board of Regents and other state entities. If constructed, it would become the second partnership building on campus, joining the Airbus Americas building now under construction.
The county-city-university discussions were a subject of Mayor Jeff Longwell's news conference today at Wichita City Hall.
"This shared training facility will help us as we continue to focus on our support of public safety and try to find solutions that are both fiscally responsible and flexible to fit the current and future needs of our community," Longwell said. "We still have many details to yet work out, but we want to be transparent and inclusive with the community about the prospects and progress of this facility."
The city and county have been researching options for a new law enforcement training center for several years because of insufficiencies in the current facility, a former elementary school on West 37th Street North. Sedgwick County issued a request for proposals.
Academic and real-world environment
The idea to put the center on campus was born when Michael Birzer, director of WSU's School of Community Affairs, attended an early innovation transformation presentation given by university Provost Tony Vizzini in 2014. Birzer, a national expert on law enforcement, returned to his office to brainstorm ways to engage the School of Community Affairs, which includes the Criminal Justice program.
"I started thinking about the need for a new law enforcement training center and the benefits of co-location at WSU," said Birzer. "A university partnership with the center would help provide students with the skills they need to thrive in the academy and in their jobs."
So he took the idea to county and city law enforcement leaders and the proposal quickly gained momentum from there.
The new center would blend academic and real-world environments to meet the need for relevant, contemporary training. The National Institute of Justice, the National Sheriff's Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have recently called for increased partnerships between law enforcement training academies and university criminal justice programs.
"The opportunities for applied learning and student interaction with the law enforcement departments in the new center will be unparalleled," said WSU President John Bardo. "They will be interacting with and learning from professionals in the field on a daily basis. It is the essence of the Innovation University concept."
Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay says the current partnership with Sedgwick County is a win-win for both organizations.
"Having a new state-of-the art training facility will ensure that continues," Ramsay said. "The partnership allows sharing of staff to train our next generation of officers and saves money. This is a model for government collaboration."
Training, learning opportunities
If approved, the three-story, 60,000-square-foot center would be located on the northeast corner of campus directly behind the Marcus Welcome Center and Woodman Alumni Center. It would provide training for officers and deputies and classrooms for 500 criminal justice students and offices for 12 faculty and staff.
The first floor will include rooms for tactical training and fitness, 911 backup/training, crime scene incident and quartermaster's rooms for the WPD and sheriff's department. The second floor will primarily house classrooms for the WPD and sheriff's department, and the third floor will include classrooms and offices for the WSU Criminal Justice program.
The estimated cost of the building is $9.5 million, which will be funded by the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County. Innovation Campus infrastructure funding would cover the costs of providing parking for the building, and the university would pay maintenance fees for the building for the first five years at a cost of approximately $200,000 per year.
The proposed development is being led by MWCB LLC, with GLMV Architecture, MKEC Engineering and Crossland Construction named as contractors. MWCB was one of 13 firms to respond to Sedgwick County's request for proposals that were due Nov. 25, 2015.
The original request for proposal timeline for the project assumes the city and county will reach a funding and operating agreement by the end of March and then have final approval in April by the Board of County Commission.
Founded in 1937, the Criminal Justice program housed in the School of Community Affairs at Wichita State University is the second-oldest program of its type in the United States. It is home to the Regional Community Policing Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative community policing to law enforcement agencies, local government and community members throughout the region, as well as the Midwest Criminal Justice Institute, which provides training and technical assistance to criminal justice organizations in Kansas and the surrounding states.
A photograph is available at http://www.wichita.edu/thisis/wsunews/newsrelease/highres/?pid=6084.