Bardo signs off on Law Enforcement Training Center

The Law Enforcement Training Center is said to host classrooms for 500 criminal justice students. 

As early as spring 2018, Wichita State could have an increased police presence on campus.

The latest announced addition to WSU’s Innovation Campus is a Law Enforcement Training Center for the Wichita Police, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department and WSU criminal justice students.

In May, WSU President John Bardo, City of Wichita and Sedgwick County officials signed letters of intent to add the training center to the northeast corner of campus, behind the Marcus Welcome Center and Woodman Alumni Center.

The proposed training center would be the second partnership building on Innovation Campus, joining the Airbus Americas building now under construction. 

President Bardo said this partnership is an important step toward “social innovation” for the Wichita State community and the surrounding area. 

“What we’re trying to do is use innovation to create new opportunities for the community,” said Bardo. “What this does, if you look at what’s been going on in the country where we’ve had so many issues with officers having confrontations with citizens—sometimes it’s necessary and sometimes it’s not been—a lot of what we’re planning to do here is to work with officers on how to deescalate things, how to create relationships with communities so that they never get to big problems in the first place.” 

“When you think about safety—we’ve got to get that right,” Bardo said.

The proposal started as an idea by Michael Birzer, professor of criminal justice at Wichita State and director of the WSU School of Community Affairs. City and county law enforcement agencies, whose officers have been training in a former elementary school built in the 1950s, have been trying to find a new training center for years. 

“It’s a big win-win for everybody—for faculty, for students, for the community, for law enforcement,” Birzer said. “For students, we’re talking co-ops, internships, the opportunity to work right alongside actual law enforcement officers—the very definition of applied learning. 

This opens the doors to opportunities that students can’t get anywhere else, at any other university.” 

Master’s of Criminal Justice student Wendell Nicholson, who is a sergeant for the Wichita Police Department, said the training center would establish Wichita State as a premier criminal justice program in the country.

“Nationwide it is difficult recruiting applicants for law enforcement,” Nicholson said. “There’s a lot to be considered when you hire someone for law enforcement. We ask ourselves, ‘Who do you trust with a badge, a gun and the ranks of authority?

“This will be a breakthrough for us in generating great applicants. Those numbers are currently down from where we’d like them to be.” 

Nicholson said he thinks the partnership, and having officers and sheriffs working so closely with students, will help create professional opportunities for criminal justice students.

“The way our promotion process works, the more educated you are, the quicker you can promote to detective and then to sheriff. There are not many officers that hold master’s degrees. They’re limited by cost and time. This partnership can help that,” Nicholson said.

Bardo said this addition to Innovation Campus is an exemplar of the mission of innovation on campus.

“I love the fact that this came from the faculty,” Bardo said. “This was something that bubbled up from Michael (Birzer) and I thought, ‘That is the right kind of thing. That is the right thought! Let’s see what we can do with it.’

“That’s what we’re trying to do here. None of us have a lock on great ideas, so what we’re trying to do is encourage people to think and to try and when that happens, look what can occur. 

Nothing is final with the proposal as the building of the training center awaits approval by the Kansas Board of Regents, but it could be completed in as few as 18 months. That would be Spring 2018. 

According to the proposal, the three-story, 60,000 square-foot building will cost an estimated $9.5 million, which will be funded by the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County. The university will provide parking for the building through Innovation Campus infrastructure funding from the state. The university will pay maintenance fees for the building for the first five years at a cost of approximately $200,000 a year. 

The university is expected to provide between 200 and 250 parking spaces for the building. The building will provide classrooms for 500 criminal justice students, offices for 12 faculty and staff, and training space for officers and sheriff’s deputies. 

The first and second floors of the building will include classrooms and training facilities for Wichita police and Sedgwick Co. Sheriff’s department personnel. The third floor will be the new home of WSU’s criminal justice department, which is currently located on the third floor of Lindquist Hall, including classrooms and offices for faculty and staff.

The first floor will include rooms for tactical training and fitness, 911 backup and training, crime scene incident and quartermaster’s rooms for the WPD and sheriff’s department, a news release from the university said. 

“No community can be successful focusing only on engineering and business,” Bardo said. “It can’t. It has to be successful by making sure that those people who design, those people who create, those people who account, want to live there.

“What we’re doing today is a visible indicator of Wichita State’s commitment to making sure that this community is the best that it can be.”