The Dallas Police Department is working toward opening a new police academy to boost growth amid an ongoing shortage of police officers.
Dallas police spoke to council members this week about the current plans to establish a new training facility at UNT Dallas during a meeting of the Public Safety Committee. Officials are working to open a new Dallas Police Academy at UNT Dallas in partnership with the Caruth Police Institute.
“There’s lots of things that need to get worked out, but again our partners at UNT Dallas are fantastic and we’re really hoping to get this across the goal line. Obviously, it’s a lot of work. It’s a heavy lift,” said Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia. “But there’s a lot of support for it, so I envision it coming to fruition and we’re really excited.”
The current plan involves the City building the facility on UNT Dallas’ campus, leasing it from the university for $1 per year for 40 years with renewal options included. Officials said the estimated cost of the new facility is now $152 million, which was previously estimated at $140 million.
“We need to seek other nearby suburbs to try to get them to do their training here in the City of Dallas to help offset this cost,” said Council Member Jesse Moreno.
The police department has secured $20 million in taxpayer funding from the State of Texas and has requested $50 million from the upcoming 2024 Capital Bond Program, according to a presentation from Assistant Dallas Police Chief Angela Shaw.
“The current warehouse facility that we have is outdated and does not meet the needs of our department,” said Shaw.
The Dallas Police Academy is presently housed in warehouse buildings near Dallas Executive Airport. The site has limited space, and the department leases the property for more than $1 million per year.
Shaw said Monday that the funds being spent on leasing the current facility would be enough to pay for maintenance at the new facility.
“Our academy, as it is now, is embarrassing,” said Garcia. “It’s not what this city and this department stands for.”
The location was first rented by the City of Dallas in 1990 but was intended to be a temporary site for the academy. However, plans to establish a new permanent Dallas Police Academy have not come to fruition.
“It’s amazing the training that goes on at the academy. It’s amazing the men and women that graduate from the academy,” Garcia continued. “But we need a better product.”
Officials said one drawback of the UNT Dallas location is that it would be unable to host training exercises involving driving, and additional locations will need to be secured for those exercises.
Former Dallas City Council Member Jennifer Staubach Gates is working to secure more private funding for the new facility.
“We have had great meetings with some potentially large donors,” said Gate.
Officials aim to complete the new police academy before 2027 when the lease on the current facility expires.
Meanwhile, staffing continues to be a significant struggle for the Dallas Police Department. While the City currently employs around 3,200 officers, an analysis estimates it would need 4,000 to be adequately staffed.
“The one thing we need, we need more staffing,” said Garcia. “We need to grow as a department. There’s no question about it.”