County officials broke ground Thursday on a $12 million police training village at Nassau County Community College with model buildings and streets where they can practice responses to real-life scenarios.
The mock village, which will serve Nassau police and other regional law enforcement agencies, is to be constructed over the next two years on the site of the Nassau County Police Training Center, located on the college campus in Uniondale. Funding was approved in July by the Nassau County Legislature and NIFA.
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the village would change the way the department trains cadets and veteran officers, putting them into training situations using a series of model buildings in a community, including a bar, restaurant, home, house of worship, bank, drugstore and a train station.
“This changes training in this county like never before,” Ryder said. “No longer do you learn from a PowerPoint and a room we pretend is a mosque or a synagogue. It will be a mosque or church or a school and the situations they go through every day.”
The training will include students from the college’s criminal justice program who will earn college credit and role play certain scenarios for the police department, Ryder said, with feedback from the students and their academy instructors.
Ryder said training will include domestic situations, directing homeless or mentally ill people to social services and responding to a suicidal person at a train station. Cadets will also practice taking patients to a waiting helicopter to be flown to a hospital.
But Joe Sackman, chair of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said: "The county should allocate the multi-million dollars in funding to items such as after-school programs, housing, small business and job creation if we the people are led to believe that our safety is their main concern; rather than building a charade game for them."
Training villages like in Nassau, the Bronx and Queens help police officers prepare for a variety of scenarios in a controlled environment including de-escalating a situation without an arrest, said Shamus Smith, a former NYPD academy instructor who is now a doctoral lecturer of criminology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“I think it’s a home run for Nassau and Suffolk counties. The most rewarding part of being in the police academy as a recruit is getting that boost of confidence in going into the field,” Smith said. “You will not get that second chance and it’s better to fail at the police academy than fail in a real life scenario.”
The project has been more than a decade in the making since it was first proposed by Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said it will serve Nassau County police, the 12th largest force in the nation, as well as other police departments and federal agencies, including sheriff’s departments, NYPD, State Police, DEA and the IRS.
Ryder said the training village will be rented out to movie studios on weekends to offset costs and include studio improvements as a soundstage.