Newark, NJ—Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose, and Executive Director of the Newark Housing Authority Victor Cirilo on Monday unveiled plans for a new state-of-the-art police and fire training complex.
The proposal calls for a complex to be built on the former grounds of the William H. Brown Academy that would train 1,700 police and fire personnel annually.
The facility will include a computer lab, classrooms, an auditorium, a 1-mile track on the roof, a room for community engagement meetings and a basement for tactical training for police and fire personnel.
The new site will be used for service training for both police and fire personnel which is now performed at two city locations since the state closing of the Newark Police Academy in 2010. The idea is to train all new police officers under one roof within the city rather than outsourcing the training.
“This is long overdue,” said Ambrose, explaining that Newark pays other municipalities to train its public safety personnel. “We’re forced to send these recruits all over the state.”
Baraka said he thought placement of the public safety complex in the South ward is “prudent” because of the problems with crime in that area.
“We want to have development outside of the downtown area,” said Baraka.
Baraka stressed the importance of transforming the dilapidated grounds of William H. Brown Academy.
“It is an eyesore and a public safety hazard,” said Baraka.
The project would be funded through a $49 million bond as well as about $1.2 million for the school acquisition and roughly $2 million for demolition.
“Over the past four years, we were able to hire over 400 police officers and 115 firefighters, purchase new vehicles for public safety, deploy state of the art law enforcement technology, become a national leader in building police/community collaboration and reduce overall crime to the lowest level in 50 years,” Baraka said. “This new complex will continue our progress in making Newark safer.”
Baraka said that Newark will no longer be listed as one of the 25 most violent cities according to F.B.I. statistics and that the city ranked 11 on that list when he took office.
Ambrose said there will be a cost savings to the city once they no longer must pay other municipalities to train police and fire personnel. Since 2014, the city spent a million dollars on training and all that money would be saved once training can be done in house, he said.
Baraka said once ground it broken it should take about 18 months to finish the building.
“I think this is a home run,” said Baraka, adding that if Newark can train its own officers they would be able to train as many as they want and need rather than being limited by how many would be accepted by another municipality. “I’m excited about it.”