AWC breaks ground on new Law Enforcement Training Academy
YUMA — Arizona Western College celebrated the beginning of construction for the new state-of-the-art Law Enforcement Training Academy during a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 5.
Housed on the AWC Yuma Campus next to the Public Safety Institute, the over 20,000-square-foot facility will provide a centralized space for cadets from across the state to receive training to become certified peace officers.
“On behalf of AWC, I stand proud and humbled to unveil our regional law enforcement academy – a beacon of empowerment and a testament to our unwavering dedication to our students and the community we serve,” said Reetika Dhawan, AWC Entrepreneurial College Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of Workforce & Healthcare. “With this groundbreaking initiative, we forge a path of opportunity, where aspiring officers can hone their skills, cultivate their passion, and become the guardians of justice our society needs. We embrace the responsibility to nurture leaders who embody integrity, compassion, and a commitment to excellence. Together, we shape a safer tomorrow, where education and service intersect for the betterment of all.”
The Law Enforcement Training Academy was funded by the Yuma County Board of Supervisors who contributed $7.5 million toward the project from CARES Act funds that Yuma County received from the Office of Gov. Doug Ducey, as well as an additional $2.7 million in AWC funds. The facility is being designed by Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects and will be built by Pilkington Construction. Construction is expected to be complete by Fall 2024.
The building will include four classrooms, two defensive tactics rooms, a practical application room, an area for physical aptitude testing, three offices, a recruit training officer office, a conference room, and showers and locker rooms.
“Since the inception of the AWC Law Enforcement Training Academy, the program has grown exponentially. It is no longer just a local training program and center, but has expanded to become a high-demand regional training center,” said Alfonso Zavala, AWC Law Enforcement Training Academy Director. “This new facility will be used for years to come to train our law enforcement officers to best serve our communities.”
Yuma County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Jonathan Lines, Supervisor for District 2, commented that this project is the result of the entire community coming together to make incredible things happen.
“This isn’t just a building, it’s a beacon for the future. It’s a promise that our officers, the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, will be trained by the best, in the best possible environment,” said Supervisor Lines.
“This is not just about a groundbreaking for a new building, today we’re laying the foundation for the future of law enforcement in Arizona. It’s about acknowledging and respecting the role of those who keep our streets safe and ensuring that they have the tools, knowledge, and the environment to do so to the highest standard. Together, brick by brick, lesson by lesson, we’re crafting a legacy of excellence and service.”
The AWC Law Enforcement Training Academy is fully accredited by Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training (AZPOST). Training is accomplished through classroom lectures, hands-on learning, and leverages the use of technology in order for cadets to earn their certification as an AZPOST Peace Officer. The academy utilizes a multi-agency staffing and instructor philosophy, which allows cadets to work with and learn from a wide variety of experienced police officers and civilian experts.
AWC began training cadets in 1984 and has graduated more than 400 certified peace officers. Until 2019, cadets trained in conjunction with the academic calendar and took a full academic year to graduate. To accelerate training and create more opportunities, AWC created a full-time academy at the Ray Kroc Sports Complex that would prepare and train officers in 21 weeks. The academy now trains more than 60 cadets a year and works with over 15 agencies across the region.
The new regional training facility will help meet the needs of law enforcement agencies across the state by allowing more cadets to live in the community where they will eventually serve. It will also increase training capabilities and be more adaptable to accommodate industry demand. State, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies that will use the facility will include the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado River Indian Tribes Police Department, Kingman Police Department, Somerton Police Department, Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, Yuma Police Department, San Luis Police Department, Cocopah Police Department, Quechan Tribal Police Department, Colorado River Indian Tribes Fish and Game, Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, Wellton Police Department, Globe Police Department, and Parker Police Department.
Yuma County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Maria Rosales was one of the first students to graduate from the full-time academy in 2019. She shared that she struggled academically at the beginning of the program, and quickly realized that her peers also had their own personal battles to overcome, whether it was academically, physically, or emotionally.
“Having the academy locally has given us the opportunity to pursue our careers while still being present in our day-to-day lives with our families. The support we have gained from our families, friends, and the community has made all the difference. The positive experience from our mentors in the community combined with the support of our families gave all of us the extra drive and push needed to overcome any obstacle and become successful,” said Deputy Rosales.
“My purpose is fulfilled each day knowing that I am a Deputy who can serve my community to the best of my abilities because of the training and support provided by our local academy, agencies, and mentors.”