The complex, which is tucked away on Dobson Road, is nearly fully operational and will serve the police and fire departments as they train their employees.
The facility first opened in August 2018, with the classroom and auditorium building that serves both departments. The second phase includes a multipurpose building for the fire department and a state-of-the-art firing range for police officers. The cost of the facility has been about
$23.9 million to date, with taxpayers footing $18.8 million of that bill in public safety bonds. Other funding came from the sale of a police department building, and the land the center sits on was gifted to the city by Intel.
Chandler Police Sgt. Dan Greene said the training facility has been a “blessing” for the department.
“This is one-of-a-kind training for most of the police departments in the East Valley,” Greene said. “All public safety over the last 10 years have really been working hard at making training more realistic. When we get the opportunity to train alongside the firefighters we work alongside on a daily basis, it benefits the public that we are responding to. You can’t prepare for a fire without a fire and you can’t prepare for a shooting without a shooting.”
The fire department had been training at 3500 S. Dobson Road, the location of the training center, since 1998, with stations and buildings set up to replicate a fire for training purposes. Prior to the opening of phase one, the police department did not have a dedicated training facility and instead trained in classrooms at different stations and locations when they were available.
Both phases of the facility take up about 40,000 square feet on 11.7 acres, where the fire academy was already located. Phase one included a 265-seat auditorium, large and small classrooms, simulator training labs, defensive tactics and fitness rooms and training staff offices.
“The most immediate impact we’ve had for police department training has been the ability to bring our resources into one building,” Greene said. “Not just the technology resources and classroom resources, but also the people.”
Phase two brought the fire department its six-bay multipurpose building, a large building capable of fitting fire engines inside with multiple garage doors. Hargis said the new building, which is temperature controlled, allows the department to train on even the hottest Arizona summer days.
“This allows us to train and keep the guys, as soon as they finish their training, they are able to go out on calls and deliver competent service,” said Battalion Chief Scott Wall. “It may seem to people it’s just about comfort, [but] it’s about competency and service delivery. This is just a phenomenal thing that the council has approved and a thing that we have. And it will make not only the city of Chandler firefighters better, but also regional [firefighters], too.”
Greene said since the facility first opened two years ago, the police and fire departments find every opportunity to collaborate and train together.
Chandler City Council Member Matt Orlando said the collaboration between the two departments has drawn praise from other municipalities and departments, not just in the Valley but from places across the nation.
“I think the important thing to note is it saves taxpayers money,” Orlando said. “We don’t have two separate facilities to operate. Being former military, I look at efficiency and I look at competency—all the residents want you to do is show up and be competent. Collaboration and communication and working together—having a joint facility, not only can we have our departments efficiently train together, but they can get competency training at the same time. The last thing you want is to learn each others’ language in the middle of an emergency,”
More efficient training
Battalion Chief Keith Hargis, who oversees the planning and preparedness division of the Chandler Fire Department, said the spirit of collaboration in the training facility has so far exceeded expectations.
“This place helps us be the best,” Hargis said. “It’s a huge benefit to both departments.”
For fire, officials said they have been able to increase training opportunities in the new space and capitalize on the new spaces to increase training hours.
For police, Greene said the department has been able to increase productivity since the training facility opened.
“Between 2019 and 2020, we were able to add—in the same amount of hours—we were able to add about 30% more training to those hours because we are all in one place,” Greene said.
“We are probably, in one day’s worth of training, getting an additional 20-30% in the amount of training we can accomplish. When our officers get more training, more repetition, more exposure to our senior instructors—with more exposure to training, they hit the streets and go into the community.”
Greene said Chandler takes state-mandated training for existing officers and takes it several steps further, all of which is now run out of the training center.
“We do about five times more than the state requires every year,” Greene said. “We put our officers through a mandatory 40 hours of training a year.”
Greene said the department stays busy making sure its 350-plus sworn police officers are all certified and up to date.
“For police and fire both, in 2020 if you wanted to book a week at the facility you already can’t,” Greene said. “We are so busy that you can’t string together four or five straight days [of training].”
Greene said that on a given weekday there may be 150 students and 30 to 40 instructors walking the campus, and people may be from multiple jurisdictions.
“I think it’s a positive thing, when you look at it through the big picture lens, we see law enforcement as a state thing and a national thing,” Greene said. “We will do anything Chandler police can do to make law enforcement better for Chandler, but also for the rest of the Valley.”
Both police and fire officials said the completed training facility, ultimately, benefits Chandler residents.
“We are passionate about our job, we want to do an excellent job and we want to deliver,” Hargis said. “There’s no room for error. When it’s your child in the pool, there is zero room for error. Not many people work in that environment and in order to do good at it, you’ve got to train. So our people love to train because when that time comes, they want to be the absolute best.”