For decades, the Nassau police department trained its recruits in a 1950's-era Massapequa elementary school and converted trailers.
But the years of training in antiquated and outdated buildings came to an end Wednesday as Nassau opened the department's first county-owned training and intelligence facility in its nearly 100-year history.
The state-of-the-art David S. Mack Center for Training and Intelligence, located on the campus of Nassau Community College in Garden City, will provide both academic and physical training for police officers, medics, recruits, corrections officers, sheriff's deputies, public safety, auxiliary and probation officers. The facility has already been used by village and city law enforcement agencies, the NYPD as well as state and federal law enforcement.
"This is something that has been talked about for a very long time," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at the new facility. "We have the 13th largest police department in the country but for decades our law enforcement personnel and the recruits were shuffled around from school to school. Our corrections officers were trained in trailers. And we now finally have a new academy that is up to the standards of our excellent law enforcement."
The three-story, 98,000-square-foot facility will serve a host of purposes, housing the Counterterrorism Specialized Intelligence Unit, along with the department's financial, community policing and asset forfeiture teams.
Department personnel will also monitor the county's new body camera program and train recruits on an outdoor emergency vehicle operations track at the new training center.
The department was most recently leasing classroom space for its academy at the former Hawthorne Elementary School in Massapequa Park, paying $700,000-annually in rent.
The new $60 million facility was built with a combination of $57 million in public money and $2.6 million in privately-raised funds. In recent months, the facility has hosted police and correctional officers graduation ceremonies, community basketball tournaments, and movie nights for area youths.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder called the new training center, which took 31 months to construct, "top shelf," and said it will serve as a bridge between the community and law enforcement.
"What we've done is change the way policing is going to be done in this county, not for today but forever," Ryder said. "We are going to train the best cops to turn out the best product and service the public the way they deserve. The way they demand. And that's how you train. It's not a time to take money away from policing … It's a time to invest in policing."
The new building is also a nod to the Nassau police department's past, doubling as its museum — with artifacts ranging from decades-old vehicles to firearms dating back to the 1920s — while recognizing each officer who made the ultimate sacrifice. Upon entry into the building visitors are greeted by life-size uniformed replicas of Nassau police officers Geoffrey Breitkopf and Arthur Lopez scaling the walls. Both officers were killed in the line of duty.
The training center was the brainchild of former police commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, who founded the nonprofit Nassau County Police Foundation in 2008 to raise money for the academy.
MTA board member David Mack, a real estate executive and philanthropist who helped fund the facility that bears his name, said the center recognizes the "integrity, courage and commitment for those men and women in blue who wear the badge and uphold the law to protect our community and our loved ones."