“It was born out of need and necessity,” Pope County Judge Ben Cross said of the law enforcement training center that opened on June 4.
Cross and Sheriff Shane Jones cut the emergency ribbon, instead of the traditional ribbon cutting, for the training facility in conjunction with the first annual Sheriff Jay Winters Memorial Iron Gun Challenge shooting competition.
Joined by several major donors as well as Mayors Rowdy Sweet of Atkins and Randy Tankersly of Pottsville, Cross discussed the timeline for the completion of the new training facility. The training facility was built through the joint efforts of many local law enforcement agencies in Pope County and consists of a 50-meter firing range, a 100-meter firing range and a 40×60 classroom accessible to local agencies.
Cross explained that in the county’s 193-year history, there has never been a dedicated place for officers to train and be educated. Everything changed last weekend.
“The number one basis for litigation in law enforcement is still rooted under the heading of ‘failure to train,'” Cross explained. composed of area mayors, police chiefs and the sheriff to brainstorm solutions. From those brainstorming sessions grew the collaborative effort you see today.”
According to Cross, the City of Atkins owns all of the property surrounding its municipal water supply and has offered the property for use, as well as financial support. The City of Pottsville offered its old City Hall, which was being replaced, to be relocated to the property, as well as financial support. Western Mill Wright Services and Stanley Floyd of Elmo’s Crane’s Service reconstructed the building in its current location.
“The Pope County government has offered manpower, financial support and logistical support,” Cross said. “The Arkansas Public Safety Technical Department offered physical assets to furnish the facilities. The Arkansas State Police Foundation and area soldiers offered financial support and “on the ground” work as the process progressed.
“Then the community stepped up to a phenomenal show of support, donating approximately $200,000 in direct materials and in-kind labor to make a vision a reality.”
Cross said the entities depicted on the panel commemorating the facility’s dedication have all donated at least $5,000 or more in financial or in-kind support, some as much as $50,000. They also strongly contributed to the construction and the permanent mission of training the men and women of the forces of order in the area:
“Already, the facility is being used by UALR’s Criminal Justice Institute to conduct regional training as a drop-in location, even for courses that don’t involve firearms, such as diversity culture, conflict resolution, hostage negotiations, etc,” Cross said. “We have federal law enforcement partners who are now interested in regional training as well.
“The facility is open to all law enforcement in the area, whether or not they were involved in the construction, and the sheriff’s office coordinates these training availability dates. While every law enforcement agency and city in the county participated in the initial brainstorming sessions, some entities were simply unable to participate.
“This facility will train generations of law enforcement officers. we all have to train together. We have to train together and that’s what makes law enforcement successful, coming together as a team. That’s what it’s all about,” Sheriff Jones said.
“There are law enforcement officers who have not yet been born who will benefit in the future from the training they will receive at this facility,” added Chief Deputy Blake Wilson.