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Mayor, police chief, fire chief cut ribbon for controversial $170 million training facility

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police and Fire Department officials gathered dozens Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting event at the new $170 million joint training facility in West Garfield Park. beginning.

“Today was a very important day for this community,” said Lightfoot. “It’s a very big day for police and fire, but a really big day for our city.”

The Chicago Joint Public Safety Training Campus (4433 W. Chicago Ave.) is located on 30.4 acres in a former railroad yard. This facility is used by members of the CPD, CFD, and Emergency Management Communications Departments. According to the Public Building Commission, the “modern training campus” will include community spaces, computer labs, classrooms, scenario training and an indoor shooting range.

The campus also includes a six-story tower, with each floor simulating different environments firefighters encounter, including apartments, hotels, office buildings and elevator shafts, Lightfoot said.

There will also be an indoor scenario village that includes four-way intersections, bars, apartments, convenience stores and office space, Lightfoot said. You can control the lighting in your facility to simulate different times of the day, or control special effects devices such as smoke machines and speakers to simulate different conditions.

The Metropolitan Police Department’s David Brown emphasized that the agency trained just under 1,000 recruits last year. 70% of them were people of color and 30% were women.

According to Brown, police departments, including new and veteran officers, must complete 40 hours of training on an annual basis, as required by a federal consent order the department now underlies. All members of the pass through the facility.

“The $170 million facility shows that this city supports police officers. Spread the word,” Brown said. “This training facility will hopefully put COPA (the Citizen’s Office of Police Accountability) out of business.”

The facility is dedicated to firefighter Mashon Plummer and a police commander who died in the line of duty in 2022. Paul Bauer was shot dead in 2018 while trying to apprehend a suspect. Scenario Village also includes several mock street signs, such as “French Street”, dedicated to fallen members. For Officer Ella French, who was shot during a traffic stop in 2021.

According to Lightfoot, the project was not only the right thing to do for first responders, but it was also the right thing to do for the West Side community, which has long been short on resources.

“We believe this facility will strengthen our relationship with the communities of Austin and West Humboldt Park,” said Fire Chief Annette Nance Holt.

“It’s a real blessing” to share a place with the Boys and Girls Club, said Nance Holt. , “May you inspire me to dream of one day serving this wonderful city as a firefighter, paramedic, or police officer.”

Many activists and celebrities, including Chance the Rapper, opposed the project despite the excitement of the authorities over the facility, which was introduced under Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2017. , mental health centers, and vocational training programs.

A group of Chicago youth, members of #NoCopAcademy, staged a protest and attended a city council meeting to oppose the facility. They “die-in” in his 2018 city hall lobby by lining up cardboard headstones with the names of those killed in police shootings and the names of schools and other institutions closed by the city for lack of funds. ” was performed.

Destiny Harris, 22, a #NoCopAcademy organizer who grew up near Austin, said she got involved because her old high school, Whitney M. Young, was a police academy neighbor on Jackson Boulevard. rice field. She remembers students being able to hear mock drills and gunshots without warning, which was traumatic, especially for students coming from areas with high levels of gun violence.

Harris said learning that the new facility would open next to her parents’ alma mater, Orr Academy High School at 730 N. Pulaski Road, raised her concerns.

Her group worked to push back the narrative that more police meant safer communities, Harris said. I don’t feel safe.

“If police made communities safer, Chicago would be one of the safest places in the country, but it’s not,” she said. “The police are a reactionary force that does not address the root causes of violence. have nowhere to stay…they are more likely to steal or rob.”

Harris said it felt like a “slap in the face” that the city used the murder of Laquan Macdonald as a justification to build a new police academy. The decision to close nearly 50 schools, including Key Elementary, also felt unfair. Due to lack of funds, millions of dollars had to be spent on building a police academy.

Despite the facility opening, Harris was proud of #NoCopAcademy’s work and said it sparked more movement in Chicago and even nationally. For example, the protests currently taking place around the proposed police training facility in Atlanta.

“We’ve really changed a lot of people’s stories about what community safety is like,” she said. It is a testament to the fact that there is always work to be done.”

pfry@chicagotribun.com

Twitter @paigexfry


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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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