Hundreds of police and firefighters have started training at a former school in Northwest Baltimore that will let cadets interact more with the community, city officials said yesterday.
On any given day, several hundred police and fire trainees will use the space - the former Pimlico Middle School at Northern Parkway and Park Heights Avenue - for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, classroom and physical training. Exercises with firearms and vehicles will take place elsewhere, police said.
A number of Police Department, Fire Department and elected officials met yesterday for a ribbon-cutting at the building.
"Life requires thorough preparation," said Mayor Sheila Dixon, quoting George Washington Carver. "And that's what this is about, thorough preparation for our public safety servants to provide quality service to the citizens of Baltimore."
Police training has taken place in an office building near City Hall on Guilford Avenue that is also used by the city Health Department. Pimlico Middle School, which opened in 1956, was closed last year as part of an effort to reduce school space because of shrinking enrollment.
Barry Kaminetz, a community organizer who lives nearby, said the training facility is a good fit for the neighborhood.
"Usually when schools close you can never be sure what's going to happen with the building," said Kaminetz, adding that he believes the new tenants will ensure the expansive grounds are maintained. "I knew what would happen if this building became vacant or had a bad use."
Baltimore spent $2 million renovating the building, a project that city officials said mainly involved mechanical problems, such as faulty boilers.
Paul M. Blair Jr., president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, noted that while the building has pluses - such as free parking - it lacks central air conditioning.
Several of the classrooms do have window air conditioners.
"It's a bigger facility. Hopefully, it will allow us to do more," Blair said. But, he said, "Officers are going to come up here, practice wearing their vests in all this type of heat."
Cadets have started using the building. In-service training, required for all uniformed officers, will begin in two weeks. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said the facility's location will send a strong message to the community.
"We're here. We're your partners," Bealefeld said. "I think being in this kind of environment really does underscore that."