By: Alyssa Goard
Aug 16, 2018
KYLE, Texas (KXAN) -- This fall Austin Community College's Hays campus will have a new addition: the Public Safety Training Center.
The center, which opens on Aug. 21, will be used to train students on the criminal justice track as well as ACC's Police Department and other public safety departments in the region.
"What we've seen with the active shooters, with the school shootings, is that law enforcement needs to have real, dedicated training toward that threat, and to do that, you need a specialized place," explained Dale Toler, the interim director of the Public Safety Training Center.
Toler, who spent more than 20 years working with the Austin Police Department, believes there is a significant need for this kind of facility within the local law enforcement community.
The center is funded through two bond proposals voters approved in November of 2014, which promised to fuel $386 million in improvements across ACC campuses. Originally the center was planned to meet the demands of students, but after ACC surveyed local law enforcement, they decided to turn it into a regional public safety resource as well.
"Our students can obtain their state licenses as peace officers, but we didn't have the facilities for that," explained James Molloy, a criminal justice professor at ACC. Molloy said this new facility won't just go to help students on the criminal justice path, but also those starting in the emergency management program at ACC that's set to begin in the fall.
While there are other training centers in the regions, what Molloy believes makes this one different is it is more holistic and includes space for all different types of indoor and outdoor drills, classrooms, self-defense practice and driving training.
Previously, Molloy explained that students would train in parking lots or borrow other departments' facilities.
The center has a firing range which can be used to train for both daytime and nighttime conditions. Those practicing there can be tested with a range or alternating targets, flashing lights and loud noises to mimic hurdles on the job.
The center also features an emergency vehicle driving course that runs for half a mile with plenty of twists and turns, it can even mimic a slick, icy roadway
"We're looking at teaching the police officer how to safely drive his car to a call," Toler said as an example. "That sounds really simple until you are in a police car trying to drive through traffic getting to the call."
He said this isn't the only track of this kind in Texas but he says it is the best track of it's kind in Texas.
A center like this has been on many department's wishlists, but not within their budgets. Toler said the Travis County Sheriff's Office, Hays County Sheriff's Office as well as Austin, Buda, and Kyle Police Departments have all expressed interest in working with the center.