Dallas, Texas police training facility opposed by 'Stop Cop City'

A $50 million bond package on the May 4 ballot would help fund the facility on the UNT dallas campus, but many are concerned over the effect its presence could have.

DALLAS — The City of Dallas has a plethora of bond proposals on the ballot for the upcoming May 4 election, but perhaps the most impactful of those is Proposition F, which would allocate $90 million toward public safety facilities. But about $50 million of that would go towards a new police training facility on the UNT Dallas campus.

If that bond gets passed, ground on the project is expected to be broken this year, and the training center could be finished by 2027.

But not everyone is on board with the proposed facility, and many are still left with questions and concerns. A local organization, "Stop Cop City Dallas," has formed to spread awareness of the facility, knocking on doors and holding town halls to talk about what their fears about the facility are and hear concerns and questions from community members.

The facility would be located in District 8, a district that -- according to city data from 2022 -- is made up of 51% black residents and 45% Hispanic or Latino residents. 

"We worry that will disproportionately impact that community," Stop Cop City Dallas Organizer Tamera Hutcherson said. "We have been out canvassing in District 8 and the common narrative we're hearing from residents of the district is why not invest in other means of public safety instead of policing?"

What she means, Hutcherson said, is that oftentimes, public safety is equated to more policing as a solution, instead of looking at the root causes of why people might resort to crime. 

"A lot of times, people resort to crime because of societal inequality, and residents are saying 'why are we not investing in more affordable housing or expansion of mental healthcare?'" Hutcherson said. "I know that the Dallas Police Department has the RIGHT care unit program that is a corresponding model, why not expand that, especially when the Dallas County Jail is the No. 1 confiner of individuals with mental health diagnoses?" 

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the department is trying to recruit more officers and provide better training, but the current academy is old and outdated.

"I’ll be honest with you, it’s embarrassing and not indicative of who we are," Garcia said of the current academy. "They deserve better. Our city deserves better."

Asst. Chief Catrina Shead, who joined the department 28 years ago, says the academy continues to fall into disrepair.

”It is exactly the same and we can stand a bit of improvement,” Shead said. 

The academy was built in 1990 as a temporary facility in the Red Bird area, but more than 30 years later it still serves as the academy. Officers have sometimes resorted to making their own improvements.

”Recently our officers spent $4,000 on lumber and supplies to build our own makeshift reality-based training scenario,” Garcia said.

Stop Cop City is a movement that originated in Atlanta, where the Atlanta Police Department has plans to build the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, an 85-acre facility, with critics worrying the center will increase militarization of police. And there are plans for many training centers just like the ones in Atlanta and Dallas all over the country.

Many in District 8, Hutcherson said, feel they don't have the proper infrastructure for the issues in their neighborhoods.

"When we're looking at the city budget, about 60% is public safety versus 1% towards housing solutions," she said. "That is a very stark disparity."

Another element Stop Cop City Dallas takes issue with is the construction of this project would necessitate the removal of a large amount of greenspace on the UNT Dallas campus.

"Dallas has heat islands, and that has caused a rise in higher temperatures, and so this is also an environmental issue," Hutcherson said.

UNT Dallas President Bob Mong said the project has been a long time coming.

”Years in the making, leaders in this community have said its past time to provide this best class police training,” Mong said.

Hutcherson said she has also heard that UNT Dallas has a high concentration of undocumented students. And SB 4, though it isn't in effect yet, could give local police the power to stop anyone they suspect of being a non-U.S. citizen, and potentially put them in jail, Hutcherson said. 

DPD says this is supposed to be a regional training facility, but little information has been disclosed yet as to exactly which law enforcement agencies will be trained there, or what kind of training or tactics will be implemented. 

"Why tell your constituents to vote yes on this when we don't even have all the info or facts to make an informed decision about this?" Hutcherson asked.


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