EDITORIAL: Learning law: New Public Safety Center welcome addition to Valley

The border region has a heavy presence of law enforcement officials. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies augment the local police, sheriff’s and constables’ departments working to keep the region safe. Even local colleges and school districts have their own police departments.

This makes law enforcement a viable career choice for many Rio Grande Valley residents, and the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence a welcome addition to local education and training facilities.

Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand on Sept. 18 to inaugurate the center, which is near the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Southwest Early College High School campus in Pharr.

“Keeping communities safe must be our top priority,” Abbott sad at the ceremony, adding that “law enforcement officers, firefighters, public safety professionals are essential to that top priority.”

The center is the result of collaboration between STC, the PSJA school district and the city of Pharr, with the latter two providing land as well as financial support.

Besides law enforcement, the center also includes a firefighter academy.

Last month’s inauguration opened the first of three phases of construction. Once all phases are complete, the center will provide dual-enrollment classes for high school students as well as additional classes for STC’s existing police academy. The center also will include simulation and firing ranges, and a driving track for practice in emergency driving procedures.

It will be the only such driving facility south of San Antonio, officials say.

Phase One of the center occupies 64 acres, with 180 additional acres available for expansion. When complete, the center is expected to cost $71 million.

In addition to students, the facility will be available to professional law enforcement officers for special training, continuing education and certification.

Valley community colleges already have police academies, but nothing on this scale. Local police departments that in the past sent officers as far away as Quantico. Va., for specialized training, might find the local center a valid alternative, enabling them to save money and train more officers.

The need for law enforcement training is constant; local police officials have had trouble keeping their ranks full because they lose trained veteran officers to the federal agencies. The center should help the local departments address that attrition.

PSJA Superintendent Daniel King noted that even federal agencies will be able to use the center for some specialized training, enabling them to keep the agents and officers here rather than send them to other parts of the country. This would help the agencies keep the border area fully staffed even during training and recertification.

We applaud those who saw both the need and the opportunity that could be addressed with this kind of training facility. The cooperation between the city, college and school district that made it a reality offers an example that other local entities should heed when looking to fill the region’s future needs.