Police dedicate new training facility in Wilkes neighborhood

To the relief of many in the Bureau, their latest training hub won’t be located in Columbia County! Get a sneak peek of this gigantic new building, dedicated to public safety …

In one of the massive warehouse spaces – it will be turned into an indoor shooting range – visitors see SERT and other tactical equipment temporarily parked inside the new home of the Portland Police Bureau Training Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Some people attending the dedication of the new Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Training Center were surprised to learn, from outgoing Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, that a swamp on the outskirts of Scappoose was seriously considered as a potential site for the facility.

But, all who attended appeared to be pleased with the ultimate selection of a massive 61,193 square foot industrial building complex, situated on 9.6 acres at 14902 NE Airport Way, when they gathered on the afternoon of October 29 to look it over.

What once were two industrial offices and warehouses are now being combined to form the new Portland Police Bureau Training Center, in the Wilkes Neighborhood.

Posters in the lobby showed that the building was purchased on April 30 for $6,400,000. It will provide classrooms and other basic meeting rooms, and the City anticipates that construction will begin in 2013, and it will be completed in 2014.

As governmental officials, politicians, volunteers, and neighbors gathered in the lobby of the outer East Portland facility’s lobby, Portland Mayor Sam Adams told East Portland News, “Portland’s first police officer was hired 142 years ago – and this is our first police training facility. It’s way past time.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams welcomes guests to the dedication of the Portland Police Bureau Training Center.

“I worked really hard on this,” Adams continued, “because keeping people safe, while keeping our police officers safe at the same time, is one of the most sacred responsibilities within a City government.”

Adams acknowledged that this was a big-ticket purchase “coming out of one of the worst economic downturns that this nation has seen since the Great Depression. This City Council found a way … by cutting administration across the City, and making other smart budget reductions, which together allowed us to purchase this facility.”

Mayor Adams says the facility will provide training spaces for all area public safety providers in the future.

When it’s fully built out, Adams added, it will become a public safety training center that will serve the region, and will be offered to Sheriff Offices and other law enforcement bureaus.

Other public safety personnel and first responders in the City of Portland, such as Parks Bureau Rangers, Water Bureau Security, Bureau of Emergency Communication workers, and Neighborhood Emergency Teams, will also have access to the new centralized training center.

A visitor inspects one of the classrooms, already in use at the PPB Training Center.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish welcomes the opportunity for Portland to have a state-of-the-art training facility.

“It took the whole City Council to get this done,” Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish

said. “It was important that we have state-of-the-art training for officers, before at the Department of Justice issued their report – and this is even more important today.

“That report showed gaps in our training and problems of coordination,” Fish told us. “This facility is going to allow us, in one location, to bring all of our training together and make sure we have the best-trained police force in the country.  And this should be our commitment to the people of Portland.”

Public safety is the most basic of services, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz says.

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz commented, that, in addition to adding to the quality of training provided the facility “will also really increase efficiency. The way it is now, our public safety personnel must travel all around the State for their training. Having it all in one place will leave more time for training.”

“Secondly,” Fritz continued, “it’ll be easier for community oversight – making sure what’s happening in this building is done according to the policies set up by the community and the Bureau.”

This is important, Fritz added, because “public safety is the most basic of services.  Community policing, and all of our neighborhoods embracing our police officers as partners, friends, and coworkers – it is essential for creating justice and maintaining a sense of community in Portland.”

This illustration shows the how the building and grounds will be reconfigured for the new PPB Training Center.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman remarked that he’s pleased to have the Police Bureau’s training “coming out of the woods”.

“I came here today to lend my support,” Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman told East Portland News. “I’m glad to see our police training functions are coming ‘out of the woods’ – literally, because it’s been scattered from points in Clackamas County, to Portland International Raceway, to downtown Portland.”

Also commenting on the Department of Justice agreement, Saltzman added that the computerized simulator will help officers train for crisis scenarios. “Scenario-based training is so crucial to help officers not make deadly mistakes.”

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard’s objection to a long-considered site for the police training center? “It was in Scappoose!”

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard the outgoing commissioner of Portland Fire & Rescue, said he’s been asked if likes the new police training center better than the Parkrose-based Portland Fire & Rescue training facility.

“My answer is yes, I like this facility better!”

At the direction of Mayor Tom Potter, Leonard said he evaluated a presentation for the police training center to be built near Scappoose and asked for candid objections.

“My first objection was that is going to be located in Scappoose, Oregon! They had a hundred acre piece of land is zoned for farming – and did I mention, that it was in Scappoose, Oregon?”

Conversations with Mayor Adams and PPB Chief Michael Reese led toward searching for a property within the City. “We looked at many spaces around the City before we found this one.”

Citizens Crime Commission Executive Director Suzanne Hayden tells why she’s been a supporter of building the training facility.

During the dedication ceremony, former Deputy Multnomah County District Attorney Suzanne Hayden – now Executive Director of the Citizens Crime Commission, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Portland Business Alliance’s Charitable Trust – spoke to the assembled group.

“As a Deputy Multnomah County District Attorney,” Hayden said, “It never dawned on me that it was a strange circumstance that we are doing training [in Clackamas County] at Camp Withycombe, or at Whitaker School. But, then it really sunk in that there was no one place for training.”

When she went to the Police Community Academy, and trained like a police officer, in a muddy camp, cold drafty warehouses, and dilapidated houses, “I was appalled. I was really struck by how well our officers are trained, given the circumstances they been training in, apparently for more than a hundred years.”

The experience “made it easy” for her to advocate “for a 21st-Century training location”.

“We’ve always expected more from our police officers, not less,” Hayden told the group. “This is our way to say to you, our men and women who serve on our police force, ‘We have your back!’”

This warehouse space ,where the PPB Metro Explosives Unit has their rig parked, will become the “Patrol Tactics” portion of their new training center.

Portland Police Bureau Chief Michael Reese says the facility will stand as a lasting contribution to  the citizens of Portland.

“I think, when we look back over this time,” Portland Police Bureau Chief Michael Reese began his remarks, “we’ll see this facility is probably the most important contribution that we’ve made to the City. It’ll be something that our officers, our men and women, will use for decades to come.”

Reese thanked the City Commissioners for supporting the project, “None of the Commissioners said ‘no’ – they all asked how they could make it happen. I really appreciate their support for this public safety strategic investment.”

Recalling Hayden’s closing statement, Reese commended, “One of the most important things in the ‘police family’ is to ‘have someone else’s back’.  Going on difficult calls, or tough situations, an officer feels safe when knowing they can depend on the person standing next to them, to ‘watch their back’. We are thankful for your support.”

Portland City Commissioners Randy Leonard, Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman stand with PPB Chief Michael Reese, Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Sam Adams after the dedication plaque is unveiled.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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