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The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
Tennessee law enforcement trains at five separate aging facilities, but if a $356 million spending proposal by Gov. Bill Lee remains in the state budget, those services would be offered at a single facility at state-owned Cockrill Bend near Nashville.
The new Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Training Academy would have a total price tag of $409 million, with $29.5 million in funding coming from initial phases of the project under former Gov. Bill Haslam and $23 million spent in last year’s budget for design work on the many aspects of the project.
The campus would include everything from multiple shooting ranges to a dormitory and dining hall, an emergency vehicle operations course, a helipad, a shoot house for training scenarios, a skid track and service centers for the Tennessee Department of Correction and Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
“Basically, you are building a law enforcement university of sorts,” Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Tuesday as the Department of General Services presented the academy as a capital expense during its budget hearing.
The proposed campus would be located on 800 acres of land adjacent to the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution prison.
John Hull, the deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management Division, said the new training campus would be completed in the second half of 2026 and replace the Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy (built in the 1960s), the “Old” Tennessee State prison (built in the 1890s), Safety HQ – Foster Avenue (built in the 1940s-60s), the Tennessee Department of Safety Training Center (built in the 1940s-50s) and the Tennessee Department of Correction Academy (1910s).
Hull said once the new training center is open, the older facilities would be able to be sold for an estimated $50 million. He said having one facility for all of the departments would result in more than $50 million in savings from a situation where the current training facilities need to be repaired to remain useful.
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“Rather than start a series of capital replacements for each of these locations, we believe that the best decision for the state and for these agencies is to build a new, state-of-the-art training facility on property we already own in Davidson County,” Hull said.
Christi Branscom, the commissioner of the Department of General Services, said many of the new training services are services departments never have had access to before and the new facility would allow for the state’s law enforcement to be more effective.
Branscom said the current firing range, located near a residential area, would be replaced by indoor and outdoor facilities on the state-owned campus, and the FBI also has reached out about building its own firing range on the campus.
The FBI range could be utilized by Tennessee departments when it isn’t being used for FBI training, something that would alleviate range scheduling issues, Branscom said.
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.