Shovels in the dirt for $18.8 million Anne Arundel County police academy

Starting in summer 2019, incoming Anne Arundel County police officers won’t have to train in an old, re-purposed missile silo.

County Executive Steve Schuh and county police Chief Timothy Altomare stuck shovels in the ground Wednesday to celebrate the construction of a new police academy at the old grounds in Davidsonville. The 30,000-square-foot academy will cost $18.8 million and will replace the re-purposed and dilapidated missile base that now serves as the academy.

It will include a 17,000-square-foot fitness center. A second phase will renovate the current facility for further training uses.

Construction money was approved in fiscal year 2017, with more funding approved in this year’s budget.

“Oh Lord, am I excited,” Altomare said at the ceremony.

Altomare and Schuh were joined by Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and Del. Tony McConkey, R-Severna Park. The academy is in McConkey’s district.

A new academy has long been a need for the Anne Arundel County Police Department. County executives John Leopold, Laura Neuman and Steve Schuh all made a new academy a priority.

The Nike Missile Silo — built in the 1950s — is used as an exercise center, where mats have to be rolled up in the rain because of leaks. The military building on the site has been renovated and expanded over time, but police officials say a new building has long been needed. The federal government gave the county the land which became the academy in 1976.

“When our administration came into office three years ago, one of our first priorities was to initiate this project and address the deplorable conditions of our police academy,” Schuh said.

Buckley said police officers have the toughest jobs in the world.

“I wanted to come out here and tell you how much the city of Annapolis appreciates what you do, and how much we believe you deserve a facility like this,” Buckley said. “We appreciate what (officers) have put up to at this point because right now it looks like ‘Police Academy 13’ was filmed here.”

(Fact check: “Police Academy” only had seven films, with the last being “Mission to Moscow” in 1994. It was not filmed at the county police academy.)

O’Brien Atkinson, president of the county Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, raised concerns the structure would be built in the same area as the existing academy. There have been questions about contaminants. County officials said studies have been done to ensure a safe environment for officers-in-training.

The new academy could help the county fill out its police force. The county has 692 sworn officers and are allotted 725 — though some argue the numbers should be much higher for a county as large as Anne Arundel, which has about 568,000 people. It also trains Annapolis city police officers, which has one cadet in the current class.

Because of its size, the new academy would allow the county to train more hires at once for each academy. There will still be attrition though, as cadets leave for other jobs or can’t make the cut, said Lt. Ryan Frashure, county police spokesman.

The last three academy classes had 87 hires with 17 of those ultimately resigning. That includes the current 85th recruit class that has 29 hires with two resignations so far.

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