Troopers getting new training facility

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2007


A new $24.5 million facility at Craig Field will do more than replace aging, unused structures at the Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center across from the Alabama State Trooper Post.

It will also help anchor the industrial park and expand the role of a growing community college.

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Wallace Community College Selma has agreed to accommodate trooper and correctional officers seeking degrees in criminal justice, a program that had been reduced to offering a certificate.

Dr. James Mitchell, president of the 1,800-student two-year institution, said it was an example of what can be done “through collaboration.”

“Through this partnership we will not only offer more opportunities for our young people, but meet specific needs of the Department of Public Safety and Department of Corrections,” Mitchell said. “We’re excited about what this partnership brings to the region.”

Trooper cadets spend six months at the training center, and law enforcement officers attend an abbreviated 13 weeks in order to become state troopers. The facility also hosts additional training courses.

WCCS once offered an associate of arts degree in criminal justice, but reduced its offering to a certificate because so few students sought the track of study.

Trooper cadets are currently trained at the facility, which has been in need of renovation “for quite some time,” said Col. Chris Murphy, DPS director.

The increased focus on academics, Murphy said, will only enhance the entire department.

“It pays a dividend to the department because we are getting better-educated people,” Murphy said. “It benefits the college by breathing new life into their criminal justice program.”

The Alabama Department of Public Safety was funded through a statewide education bond issue passed in the Legislature this year.

Plans for the project include six new buildings. Two will be classrooms and administrative offices. New dormitories for trooper cadets and DOC trainees, a common cafeteria and a new gymnasium are slated for completion over the next three years, according to the department of public safety.

A driving course and firing range are also planned, new additions to the existing site.

Murphy brought 18 senators and members of the state house to Craig to tour the facility, where trooper cadets, DOC officers and police recruits attend a military style boot camp.

Trooper John Reese of Selma, who serves as information director, was among the group and saw their response.

He said the facility was “in fairly good shape” when he graduated, but through the years it has gone down and needs to be replaced.

“I’ll get a chance to see it before I retire,” said Reese, who graduated from the training academy in June 1988. “Selma is known as the training Mecca. We train all the police officers in the state of Alabama.

We’ve been trying to do this for years.”

The state’s 465 troopers could soon have help from new recruits, which DPS officials say a new state-of-the-art facility will help with as well.

“There’s no doubt in mind a new facility will help with recruiting. That’s another good thing about it,” Reese said.