Training day

Hands-on learning: Mayor Michael Nutter toured the new Police Training Center, which features warehouse-style garages where officers and recruits can act out real-life scenarios. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Philadelphia’s police recruits will soon be reporting to a new, modernized training facility, but they won’t have to leave the Northeast to get there.

City officials including Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey cut the ribbon on the new Philadelphia Police Training Center on Sept. 10 in a former military reserve base at 2838 Woodhaven Road. The $15.5 million center will replace the decades-old Police Academy on State Road and will also serve as a venue of advanced training for veteran Philly cops as well as those from other jurisdictions throughout the region.

“Having this new Philadelphia Police Training Center has been one of our priorities since the beginning,” said Nutter, who in January will conclude his eight-year tenure in office. “It’s long been on the radar screen.”

Later, the mayor added, “We have a lot more work to do in our districts as well.”

During a ceremony that also included other senior administration officials, FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby and a group of state lawmakers based in the Northeast, Nutter highlighted the police department’s dire need of facility improvements and the city’s recent efforts to meet that need. In 2013, the city opened a new regional tactical training center at the old Police Academy site for the SWAT, Ordinance (Bomb) Disposal and K-9 units. It also opened a new Special Victims Unit and Department of Human Services building at Hunting Park and Whitaker avenues.

The administration has also begun the process to open a new Police Headquarters in West Philly to replace the venerable “Roundhouse” at Eighth and Race streets.

“I’ve never seen a mayor more dedicated to the police department than him,” McNesby said. “It really does help morale to come to a place that’s air conditioned and where you have a clean desk.”

State Reps. Mike Driscoll (whose district includes the new training center site), Kevin Boyle, Ed Neilson and Martina White joined news media on a tour of the new center, as did Department of Public Property Commissioner Bridget Collins-Greenwald, whose name appears with Nutter’s on the bronze dedication plaque. Nutter surprised Ramsey by revealing that the center’s auditorium has been dedicated in the police commissioner’s honor.

The 78,000-square-foot center triples the capacity of the old Police Academy and is designed to support 160 staff, 300 recruits and 400 in-service police officers. It merges several department functions under one roof that previously were split among multiple locations. In addition to Recruit Training and Advanced Training units, it will be home to the Standards and Accountability Bureau, Police Explorers youth program and other administrative functions.

The facility features classrooms, a gymnasium, a weight room and warehouse-style garages where instructors and students can act out potential real-life scenarios. Instructors will conduct driver training outside. The department’s firearms range will stay put behind the old Police Academy along the Delaware River so that neighbors won’t have to worry about stray bullets.

Public officials were concerned with the limited vehicle access for the Woodhaven Road site. Due to the expressway median, westbound cars can access it only via Comly Road and the Normandy housing section. Collins-Greenwald and Deputy Public Property Commissioner Gary Knappick said the city has plans in place to build a new road from Comly leading into the new training center.

The access road will bypass nearby residential streets and should be complete within a year. ••

Welcome to the Academy: Mayor Michael Nutter speaks during a ribbon-cutting event at the new Philadelphia Police Training Center on Sept. 10 in a former military reserve base at 2838 Woodhaven Road. The 78,000-square-foot center triples the capacity of the old Police Academy. MARIA S. YOUNG TIMES PHOTO