Nassau police Commissioner Patrick Ryder is shown in the department's...

Nassau police Commissioner Patrick Ryder is shown in the department's intelligence section, at the department's David S. Mack Center for Training and Intelligence at Nassau Community College. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Nassau County police call it a movable movie set, where trainees can respond to simulated crises they may be called to respond to, whether it's at the bank in Bethpage, a house of worship in Hicksville or a split-level home in Syosset.

Their planned $11.7 million “police training village,” at the department's 89,000-square-foot, $54 million academy and intelligence center that opened in 2021 at Nassau Community College in Uniondale, can be rearranged into restaurants, bars, school buildings and more to train officers for critical situations.

The additional investment puts Nassau in a growing number of police forces that have opened training or tactical villages to prepare for incidents, including the increasing threat of mass shootings in public spaces.

Critics say it reflects a tendency to over-police and heightens the perception of militarized cops. Since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer, police reform advocates have called for municipalities to invest more into social services.

Nassau officials said the training will promote aspects of police reform, including de-escalation tactics, and serve as education for NCC students who can observe the training and ask questions.

The village will “put cops in real-life scenarios that they never get to do until they’re actually in that moment,” Nassau police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told members of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority on July 13.

NIFA approved the county's contract with Metro Group of Long Island Inc. to build the training village. A groundbreaking is set for Sept. 28.

Ryder said the county will not refer to it as a “tactical” center and will emphasize “de-escalation” strategies to recruits. Live weapons will not be fired there.

County Executive Bruce Blakeman said the training village will promote "cultural sensitivity."

“When it comes to the houses of worship, to the extent that it's possible, we try to teach our police officers how to deal with different communities and the sensitivities they may have," Blakeman said. "For instance, if you're doing an investigation in a Muslim mosque, you would typically want your police officers — if it's something they have time to do — to take their shoes off and be respectful in that manner.”

Shanequa Levin, founder of LI United to Transform Policing and Community Safety, criticized the decision to spend a total of nearly $70 million on the academy, intelligence center and training village.

Nassau is “giving police more and more and not addressing the way police are working,” she said.

“There’s other things we need to invest in,” such as language access, poverty prevention and failing infrastructure, Levin said.

“Not more money invested into the police force when they can’t address the things they’re doing wrong," she said, citing the high cost of police misconduct. Nassau and Suffolk counties have paid more than $100 million to settle misconduct lawsuits since 2000, Newsday reported in May.

“I’d rather see the funds go toward making those situations better as opposed to investing more money into” the police department, she said.

There are similar training or tactical villages across the country, including within the New York Police Department and the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.

The most famous is "Hogan's Alley" at the FBI’s academy in Stafford, Virginia. Designed by cinematic set designers, it opened in 1987 and features a pharmacy, bank and post office where recruits can respond to simulated threats from “mobsters, drug dealers, and international terrorists,” according to the academy’s website.

In Chester County, Pennsylvania, one hour west of Philadelphia, a tactical village opened in 2015.

Gerry Lindenlauf, deputy director of public safety training for Chester County, said the way police respond to and train for active shooters now is much different from in the 1990s.

Then, the mentality among the first officers to arrive on a scene was, “We're going to wait for the SWAT team," he said.

Now, he said, “We don’t wait for SWAT teams. That first officer is making their response into the building. And then additional officers file in, and somebody’s got to take command. As additional officers arrive, they’re being assigned to do what needs to be done.”

He added: “With these scenarios that we create, it makes them think, 'Well, what am I going to do?' So doing a scenario-based training, they can ask questions and hopefully that all sticks with them if they're in a critical incident.”

A proposed training village in Atlanta has seen significant opposition among advocates of police reform.

Over the past year, opponents have criticized the city’s $90 million plan to build the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, dubbing it “Cop City.”

Kurt Kastorf, a lawyer for the opponents, said Atlanta residents are concerned about the cost of the project and the way the police force has responded to misconduct claims.

“A lot of people have concerns about the nature of the training,” Kastorf said. “Is it effective? Is building a large facility in an affected community the most appropriate way of addressing the quality of policing?

“I think an additional concern with the notion of things like designed villages [is] there is a real concern, for a variety of reasons, that police are becoming increasingly militarized.”

Jim Bueermann, a retired police chief in Redlands, California, and president of Future Policing Strategies, a consulting firm, said Nassau is correct to emphasize de-escalation training in the new village.

“If all you do is tactical and active shooter orientation, that can reinforce in officers’ minds that that’s all they do — that they’re warriors, when in fact the really more advanced thinking of policing in this country is that cops are guardians in the community that have the ability to act warrior-like,” Bueermann said.

Nassau officials have planned the academy and training center for years. Officers since 2007 have trained in a former elementary school in Massapequa that police officials have called “antiquated and inadequate," with an annual rent of $700,000.

Nassau legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the slow pace of government stalled the new training space.

“You can always talk in a classroom about different scenarios and things, but putting it in a situation where they’re in a structure, or a house, an office and having them engage in that situation, I think it’s very valuable for them," he said.

Nassau County police call it a movable movie set, where trainees can respond to simulated crises they may be called to respond to, whether it's at the bank in Bethpage, a house of worship in Hicksville or a split-level home in Syosset.

Their planned $11.7 million “police training village,” at the department's 89,000-square-foot, $54 million academy and intelligence center that opened in 2021 at Nassau Community College in Uniondale, can be rearranged into restaurants, bars, school buildings and more to train officers for critical situations.

The additional investment puts Nassau in a growing number of police forces that have opened training or tactical villages to prepare for incidents, including the increasing threat of mass shootings in public spaces.

Critics say it reflects a tendency to over-police and heightens the perception of militarized cops. Since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer, police reform advocates have called for municipalities to invest more into social services.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Nassau County is planning an $11.7 million “police training village” at the department's 89,000-square-foot, $54 million academy and intelligence center that opened in 2021 at Nassau Community College.
  • The mock village can be rearranged into restaurants, bars, school buildings and more to train officers for critical situations such as mass shootings in public places.
  • Critics say the plan reflects a tendency to over-police and heightens the perception of militarized cops.

Nassau officials said the training will promote aspects of police reform, including de-escalation tactics, and serve as education for NCC students who can observe the training and ask questions.

The village will “put cops in real-life scenarios that they never get to do until they’re actually in that moment,” Nassau police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told members of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority on July 13.

NIFA approved the county's contract with Metro Group of Long Island Inc. to build the training village. A groundbreaking is set for Sept. 28.

Ryder said the county will not refer to it as a “tactical” center and will emphasize “de-escalation” strategies to recruits. Live weapons will not be fired there.

County Executive Bruce Blakeman said the training village will promote "cultural sensitivity."

“When it comes to the houses of worship, to the extent that it's possible, we try to teach our police officers how to deal with different communities and the sensitivities they may have," Blakeman said. "For instance, if you're doing an investigation in a Muslim mosque, you would typically want your police officers — if it's something they have time to do — to take their shoes off and be respectful in that manner.”

Shanequa Levin, founder of LI United to Transform Policing and Community Safety, criticized the decision to spend a total of nearly $70 million on the academy, intelligence center and training village.

Nassau is “giving police more and more and not addressing the way police are working,” she said.

“There’s other things we need to invest in,” such as language access, poverty prevention and failing infrastructure, Levin said.

“Not more money invested into the police force when they can’t address the things they’re doing wrong," she said, citing the high cost of police misconduct. Nassau and Suffolk counties have paid more than $100 million to settle misconduct lawsuits since 2000, Newsday reported in May.

“I’d rather see the funds go toward making those situations better as opposed to investing more money into” the police department, she said.

There are similar training or tactical villages across the country, including within the New York Police Department and the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.

The most famous is "Hogan's Alley" at the FBI’s academy in Stafford, Virginia. Designed by cinematic set designers, it opened in 1987 and features a pharmacy, bank and post office where recruits can respond to simulated threats from “mobsters, drug dealers, and international terrorists,” according to the academy’s website.

In Chester County, Pennsylvania, one hour west of Philadelphia, a tactical village opened in 2015.

Gerry Lindenlauf, deputy director of public safety training for Chester County, said the way police respond to and train for active shooters now is much different from in the 1990s.

Then, the mentality among the first officers to arrive on a scene was, “We're going to wait for the SWAT team," he said.

Now, he said, “We don’t wait for SWAT teams. That first officer is making their response into the building. And then additional officers file in, and somebody’s got to take command. As additional officers arrive, they’re being assigned to do what needs to be done.”

He added: “With these scenarios that we create, it makes them think, 'Well, what am I going to do?' So doing a scenario-based training, they can ask questions and hopefully that all sticks with them if they're in a critical incident.”

A proposed training village in Atlanta has seen significant opposition among advocates of police reform.

Over the past year, opponents have criticized the city’s $90 million plan to build the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, dubbing it “Cop City.”

Kurt Kastorf, a lawyer for the opponents, said Atlanta residents are concerned about the cost of the project and the way the police force has responded to misconduct claims.

“A lot of people have concerns about the nature of the training,” Kastorf said. “Is it effective? Is building a large facility in an affected community the most appropriate way of addressing the quality of policing?

“I think an additional concern with the notion of things like designed villages [is] there is a real concern, for a variety of reasons, that police are becoming increasingly militarized.”

Jim Bueermann, a retired police chief in Redlands, California, and president of Future Policing Strategies, a consulting firm, said Nassau is correct to emphasize de-escalation training in the new village.

“If all you do is tactical and active shooter orientation, that can reinforce in officers’ minds that that’s all they do — that they’re warriors, when in fact the really more advanced thinking of policing in this country is that cops are guardians in the community that have the ability to act warrior-like,” Bueermann said.

Nassau officials have planned the academy and training center for years. Officers since 2007 have trained in a former elementary school in Massapequa that police officials have called “antiquated and inadequate," with an annual rent of $700,000.

Nassau legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the slow pace of government stalled the new training space.

“You can always talk in a classroom about different scenarios and things, but putting it in a situation where they’re in a structure, or a house, an office and having them engage in that situation, I think it’s very valuable for them," he said.

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Latest videos

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.