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SJSO breaks ground on training center: Community outreach, more planned for 36,000 square-feet space

LAPLACE — A 50-yard tactical shooting range is just one example of the state-of-the-art training opportunities St. John the Baptist Parish law enforcement officers will have by summer 2020.

The St. John Sheriff’s Office gathered Friday morning to break ground on the upcoming Lloyd B. Johnson Law Enforcement Training Center at 947 Cambridge Drive, the site of the old LaPlace bowling alley.

Once the 12-month construction is completed, the new 36,000 square-feet facility will serve officers and the surrounding community with continuous training and public education.

One of the building’s two large classrooms will be designed for virtual reality and simulations, according to Lieutenant Chip Wale, commander of the training division.

Wale has seen a need for a new training facility since 2014 and is confident the Lloyd B. Johnson center will be a perfect fit for required in-service training among more than 300 employees.

The Lloyd B. Johnson Law Enforcement Training Center will be located at 947 Cambridge Drive in LaPlace.

“Our day-to-day operation is the training division,” Wale said.

“We’re going to be hosting a lot of outside training, as well, so we’ll bring in national level training companies to provide not only our officers, but the entire region with training.”

While the Sheriff’s Office has access to an outdoor shooting range in Garyville, Sheriff Mike Tregre said there is a need for an indoor facility for officers to use day-in and day-out, regardless of weather conditions.

“We appreciate using the shooting range in Garyville, but we can only get that range a couple of times or one day a week, sometimes not at all,” Tregre said.

Continuous training is one of the top responsibilities of a law enforcement agency because it promotes quick and decisive action in the line of duty, according to Tregre.

He expects the new construction to increase productivity and law enforcement effectiveness, while also keeping tax dollars in St. John Parish.

Local officers stand during the National Anthem, played during Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

“We’ll be bringing instructors in from all over the country instead of my guys having to fly all over,” Tregre said.

“Our hotels will hopefully stay maxed out. Our people need a place to eat, so our local restaurants should be happy with that. I think it’s exciting.

This will be the only facility of its kind in the state of Louisiana. It’s a driver for the St. John the Baptist Parish economy.”

The project is expected to cost approximately $6 million and will be paid for by the department’s current revenue with no additional cost to taxpayers, according to Chief Civil Deputy Jeff Clement.

Sheriff Mike Tregre speaks at Friday’s groundbreaking.

According to Wale, the training center will feature a large kitchen and the necessary equipment for storm response operations.

He hopes community events hosted at the center enhance relations between residents and law enforcement.

“We’re going to be able to host just about anything we want to do,” Wale said. “We’re going to do CPR. We’re going to do concealed carry weapons classes, basic firearms safety, hunter’s safety and we’re also looking to host any other community events, especially for the Cambridge subdivision.”

Women’s self defense classes and simulations allowing civilians to stand in officers’ shoes will also be offered, according to Tregre.

The training center is named in honor of previous Lloyd B. Johnson, who served St. John Parish for 20 years as sheriff.