Fort Macleod residents were assured last week the first crop of recruits will arrive on schedule in the fall of 2010 at the new Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre.
The man in charge of the $110-million police college project was in Fort Macleod to meet with local officials and the public.
“We’re still on track to turn sod early next year,” police college project manager Bill Meade said. “It will be a two-year build.”
Meade and other government staff working on the police college project attended the May 28 open house at the community hall hosted by Fort Macleod town council.
Meade told the more than 110 people at the open house considerable work is being done in the background to move the police college project ahead.
“There isn’t a model to follow,” Meade said. “That’s one of our challenges we have.”
The Alberta Police and Peace Officer Training Centre is to be a world-class training centre used by police forces in Alberta and around the world.
“One of the first things we had to do is figure out how many people are going to use it,” Meade said.
The college is to be built to serve for 30 years, and designers have to know how many people it will serve.
“Even though you haven’t seen a lot of what we’ve been doing, it’s really because we’ve had to get a handle on the numbers for 30 years,” Meade said. “That’s been a real challenge, but kind of a fun one too.”
Meade told the audience there are three groups of people who will use the police college.
“There is the group that we know are going to use it,” Meade said of police officers, corrections facility staff and peace officers. “We had to ask them what are their (human resource) requirements, what their recruiting numbers will be for the next 30 years. They looked at us like we were from Mars.”
“We had to really work with them to figure out what that was going to look like,” Meade said.
The second group of people who might use the college for training are those who require sidearms or other skill sets.
“There’s a whole bunch of potential students in that second category that we’re just negotiating with now,” Meade said.
While they might not attend the college as recruits, they will use the facility for ongoing training and recertification.
“You hear some talk about border security people getting firearms, and maybe Parks Canada people getting sidearms,” Meade said. “When that happens they usually get their initial training at a central location, but then for recertification . . they’ll potentially be coming to us.”
The third category of people who might be trained at the police college represent an international group.
“The policing community across our world is in need of such a facility,” Meade said. “Canada through our RCMP have a very good reputation about training officers . . . and we think there is a real market to have ongoing recruit training for some of our specialty forces.”
As an example Meade cited Canadian police officers who are sent overseas to help in war-torn countries and other trouble spots.
“Those individuals need training, not in policing, but in terms of going and helping out in other cultures for the most part,” Meade said.
People working on the project are optimistic some of those groups will use the police college in Fort Macleod.
“We have to balance how big we think we need (the college) to be, with our potential revenue streams,” Meade said. “We can’t overbuild it dramatically, but we have to make sure it’s big enough (to last) for 30 years. That takes a lot of detailed assessment and an awful lot of planning work.”
Once that is completed the information will be shared with Alberta Infrastructure to prepare cost estimates. Meade will then report back to the provincial government on the number of students, the revenue streams and the cost to build the college.
Project officials will also determine what the market is like in terms of a private-public partnership, such as the government leasing the facility for 30 years and possibly the province owning the college at the end of that three-decade term.
“There’s all kinds of different scenarios we can explore with the market place,” Meade said.
Meade said his group is close to releasing to the market an expression of interest. The next step is to release the pre-qualifications.
“What we’re looking for here is to weed down the number of groups that might be able to pull this off to a manageable number,” Meade said. “It will probably be two or three.”
The next step will be a request for proposals from that small number.
“They’ll respond to that, and then we’ll put the shovel in the ground,” Meade said.
Solicitor General’s special projects unit manager Dr. Curtis Clarke said there is another factor.
“Because we’re starting from a blank slate here, we’re looking at a brand-new model of strategic training,” Clarke said. “We’re moving toward a scenario-based, problem-based learning model. That’s manpower intensive.”
Clarke said the model is also infrastructure intensive.
“It’s not just building a bunch of classrooms and having our officers sit there,” Clarke explained. “We have to build scenario environments, small communities, small store fronts, and a variety of other things that will facilitate that kind of training.”
That will shape the design, the style and the structure of the police college.
“Until we have that set up and we have all our stakeholders, that is all of the law enforcement agencies in Alberta, willing to buy into that style of training, we have nothing,” said Clarke, who is in charge of curriculum development. “We needed to have that in place so that we can then look at the design style. that’s taken us some time as well.”
Meade told Fort Macleod residents the 1,400 recruits who will attend the college each year will live two to a room in dormitory-style accommodation at the site.
“There are a whole bunch of reasons we want them together,” said Meade, adding one of the main reasons is to allow a strong bond to develop between the police officers. Fort Macleod residents also learned the police college will employ 75 instructors.
“At the moment what we’re looking at is about half of that would be full-time and the other half would be seconded from police services or other agencies,” said Clarke. “Usually the seconded officers are here for a year to two years.”
It is likely all the instructors will live in housing in Fort Macleod rather than at the police college.
“The full-time instructors will certainly be in the town, and the part-time or seconded officers, we would like to see them being integrated into the community,” Clarke said. “That’s a lot of space to have at the academy, and to also have them isolated at the academy for two years.”
Clarke said seconded officers don’t live on-site at other police academies he has been involved with across the country.
“They live in the community,” Clarke said, “and are set up through our administration to be integrated into the community.”
The audience was also told driver training will be done on a track on the college site