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Controversial West Side Cop Academy Opens After Years Of Pushback From Activists

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CHICAGO – A controversial police training academy on the West Side opened Wednesday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in which officials – including Mayor Lori Lightfoot – praised it – despite years of pushback it has faced .

Activists have organized protests and fought against the training campus at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. for years, saying they would rather the city spend its money on housing, social services and other resources to help residents. town Council approved plans for $33 million academy in 2019,

“We’re here for a party,” Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said at the ceremony. “I think this is a victory for the city of Chicago. She took a lot of bruises, but it was worth it.

The campus will be used to train police and fire first responders. It features a “tactical village” resembling a Chicago neighborhood – with eight false roads named after police and firefighters who died in service – and a six-story tower for fire training.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The new public safety training facility in West Humboldt Park on January 25, 2023.

Officials said the village was needed to centralize training for first responders, train all departments and prepare for “new and emerging threats”.

Supporters also said the police academy will bring investment to the West Side, as two restaurants — Peach’s and Culvers — will open there. They also said it will allow local children to develop relationships with first responders and see if they are interested in pursuing those careers.

But critics said the academy – and the officers it should bring more frequently to the area when they train – could traumatize local children. They have spoke out against plans to open a boys’ and girls’ club on campus; the mayor’s office said Wednesday it should open this summer.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the academy was ultimately needed to provide more training for first responders.

“We want to make sure our first responders have everything they need,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “Historically, we have neglected the training of first responders. These investments are absolutely critical to getting your job done.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
CPD Supt. David Brown holds a sign commemorating fallen CPD officer Samuel Jimenez during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Public Safety Training Facility in West Humboldt Park on January 25, 2023.

Lightfoot opposed plans for the training academy in 2018, before being elected mayor. He changed his tune after taking office, saying the facility would be key to improving the training of police officers.

Officials at Wednesday’s ceremony noted a fire was raging in a Kenwood skyscraper though they have cut the ribbon on the facility, and the campus will be instrumental in training workers on responding to future wildfires.

“This is an important step for the department,” said Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt.

The structure will be able to train 500 rescuers a day, of which 30 per classroom.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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