Kansas contemplating $200M–$250M overhaul of law enforcement training center

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TOPEKA — Proposed modernization of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Hutchinson at a cost of $200 million to $250 million would adhere to curriculum and instructional reforms necessary to prepare a new generation of public-safety officers, officials said.

Implementation of a campus master plan — the first since the center was authorized in 1968 — would require approval of the Kansas Legislature. The anticipated price tag could lead the state to embrace a private-public partnership in which the infrastructure was financed and built by a private company and leased to the state for a period leading to acquisition.

The Kansas Board of Regents, which has oversight of the training center affiliated with the University of Kansas, has endorsed the plan for upgrading the state’s hub of basic and continuing education training of law enforcement officers.

In a normal year, 350 to 400 people complete basic training at the facility. Enrollment in professional development courses usually reaches 13,000 annually. The annual operating budget of $7.9 million relies primarily on vehicle tag fees and court docket fees. The campus was originally a World War II Naval Air station.

“Right now is exactly the time we need to invest in law enforcement,” said Darin Beck, executive director of the Hutchinson training center. “With the controversies in law enforcement in the state and with the national debate that is currently raging, it’s been an interesting time in law enforcement.”

“As we move forward in determining what the law enforcement community profession will look like in the future,” he said, “everybody agrees the education and training of law enforcement, as we move forward, is key to success.”

He said the center committed to changes in the curriculum and the transition to hands-on instructional methods that would be enhanced with better facilities.

Shortage of usable space at the Hutchinson complex previously led to cannibalization of training areas for offices and tactical areas for classrooms. Engineers concluded several buildings on the campus should be demolished because it wouldn’t make sense to invest in renovations. The master plan contemplated remodeling of a series of existing buildings.

“We don’t have the capacity to do some of the training we need to do because we don’t have the facilities,” Beck said.

Beck, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel named director of the training center in 2018, said the updated campus would feature an indoor range to work around the state’s uncooperative weather. It would incorporate a facility focused on defensive tactics, a tactical village and a complex dedicated to physical fitness training. There would be a multipurpose event facility and an administrative complex.

The master plan envisioned a joint operations training center providing instruction that brought personnel together as they would in the field, Beck said. The campus would add dormitory and cafeteria spaces common to educational facilities, he said.

Beck, who has worked at the Kansas center for about 20 years, said conceptual designs included a pond at the center of campus to address ongoing flooding issues.

“We’re trying to get away from any kind of institutional feel,” he said. “We want to make sure law enforcement officers understand that they’re not military, they’re not at war with anybody. They are primarily service people.”

He said preliminary cost estimates of implementing the master plan ranged from $200 million to $250 million. One option would be to follow the route taken by KU when it moved ahead with development of a $350 million central district on the Lawrence campus that included an integrated science building for interdisciplinary teaching and research in chemistry, physics, molecular biosciences and related fields.

The KU project also included new student housing, parking facilities, a student union and a utility plant that was financed without additional state funding through a public-private partnership with Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate.

The approach enabled KU to undertake the large construction project in a more cost-effective way than building each component individually, university officials said.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said the state of Kansas would “greatly benefit” from transformation of the law enforcement training center campus in Hutchinson.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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