Chandler’s new public safety complex opening this month - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler’s new public safety complex opening this month

July 9th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Chandler’s new public safety complex opening this month


Every day, Chandler police officers and firefighters find themselves working together while responding to anything from traffic collisions to shootings and drownings, even if they play different roles.

Now, the new Chandler Public Safety Training Center, scheduled to open on July 17, will allow police officers and firefighters to train together far more effectively than in the past, while saving taxpayers a considerable expense through the use of such shared facilities as an auditorium and classrooms.

“There are endless opportunities to share resources,’’ Chandler Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins said. “We have the same mission. We end up on the same incidents together.’’

Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan said all the city’s police officers and firefighters will undergo active-shooter training together for the first time in October at the new facility on Dobson Road, just south of the Intel complex.

While there have been similar drills at borrowed facilities, this is the first time all sworn Chandler personnel can be trained on this scale, he said.

The training will simulate major incidents that every city try to avoid, such as campus shootings.

“At any point, any one of us could be a first responder. We need to be in synch with fire,’’ Duggan said.

The cost of poor training is astronomically high: an avoidable death of an officer or a firefighter or an ill-advised shooting that exposes the city to a lawsuit.

“Our job is changing at an exponential rate, from new crimes to community expectations to technology,’’ he said. “The need for quality training has never been more important than it is today.’

“This training center will allow us to host world-class training that will bring 21st-century training to the Valley,’’ he said. “We have been elevated to a whole different level. Now everything is brought together to a central location. This is a game-changer.’’

While the Fire Department has been training at 3500 S. Dobson Road since 1998, the Police Department has had no dedicated training center.

A shooting simulator is located in a separate building, while the firing range is in the basement of police headquarters.

The lack of a central location has been an inconvenience, but police have managed to work through a less-than-ideal arrangement to get training.

Police originally had another city-owned piece of property earmarked for their own training center, but they realized about four years ago that a shared facility with the Fire Department would be better, both financially and operationally, Duggan said.

The facility cost $26.3 million, with $7.8 million in improvements targeted for fire and $18.5 million for police.

Phase I, the majority of the facility, is scheduled to open on July 17. Phase II mainly involves construction of a new firing range starting in October. The entire facility is scheduled for completion in January.

The only shortcoming that will still remain is the lack of a driving safety course, which is included in Gilbert’s planned police and fire training facility. That facility is still on the drawing board since the town plans to ask voters this fall to approve a bond issue for its construction.

Police have 10 lanes to practice firing at targets 25 yards away at police headquarters. The new range will duplicate that and add four for firing at targets 50 yards away. The expansion allows for training in more scenarios, Duggan said.

“There is no greater charge or responsibility than taking someone’s life,’’ he said.

The new training center includes a room built for the shooting simulator, which may be replaced with a new, more technologically advanced model.

Police also envision construction sometime in the future of a stand-alone crime lab that would perform more tests than the crime lab in police headquarters.

While Chandler’s fire department conducts an academy for recruits at the training facility, police will continue to send recruits to the Phoenix Police Regional Academy near South Mountain, Duggan said.

Chandler police will limit themselves, at least initially, to only in-service training at the new facility, following requirements set by the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board.

“It goes on perpetually throughout your career. Every officer goes through training all year,’’ Duggan said.

Dwiggins said there are numerous real-world examples of how cross-training improves police and fire service.

“You have police recruits coming out of the academy who often times are first on the scene of an active fire,’’ he said, so it’s good for young police officers to learn how to respond to such a situation.

Another example would be a police officer who is first on the drowning scene and needs to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation until fire units arrive. The same goes for firefighters who are first on scene at police situation.

“Our radios are inter-operational now. We can switch to their channel,’’ Dwiggins said. “In many of these scenes, there is an element of unpredictability.’’

Dwiggins said the enhanced training center played a significant role in Chandler Fire and Medical recently receiving the prestigious level one rating from ISO, The Insurance Services Organization.

Chandler’s rating improved from Level 3 to Level 1, which should translate into lower insurance rates for property owners within the city. About 305 fire departments out 46,000 nationally have received the top rating, which Dwiggins considers an important achievement.

ISO performs an audit of fire departments, examining all aspects of their operation, including training, he said.