The Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex was envisioned to be a regional resource for training law enforcement. The sprawling complex in southeast Fort Worth houses Fort Worth’s police and fire administration and training resources.
The city’s training resources are state of the art and known around the country as an example of exemplary training resources, Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said.
Initially, the city expected that it would be able to collect a significant amount of revenue from Bob Bolen by allowing other agencies to rent the space. Although the center has failed to pay for itself, it still serves as a regional resource, Costa said.
The Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex cost the city $841,809 to operate in 2022, including utility costs and maintenance. The complex did not take in any revenues that year from training, according to Assistant Chief Robert Alldredge Jr.
“We make extensive use of that facility for those purposes,” Costa said. “I think there’s a misconception, and it may even extend to some of our own police officers, that we don’t do much training of personnel from other agencies. That’s not the case at all.”
Fort Worth trains an average of 750 to 1,000 sworn personnel from other agencies at the Bob Bolen complex each year.
“We do provide a considerable amount of training for the sheriff’s office, particularly firearms training,” Costa said.
Waybourn said when he was elected as sheriff he immediately identified the need for a new county training center. However, in a cooperative spirit, he said he reached out to Fort Worth first to see if he could use the city’s complex.
“They did not have the facilities to accommodate us,” Waybourn said.
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The Tarrant County Sheriff’s office has been unable to use Fort Worth’s firing range and classrooms because of scheduling conflicts, Waybourn said. When qualifying deputies, the county needs use of the range every day for months, he said. Fort Worth was unable to accommodate that.
“Their needs are such that we’re not able to provide for them in their entirety,” Costa said. “So that’s a different story than us not being able to do much at all, because we do a lot. I think the sheriff’s office knows that, and they do rely on us.”
When Bob Bolen was initially envisioned as a regional training resource, Fort Worth expected it to generate significant revenues, partially offsetting the cost of constructing and maintaining the building.
However, revenues fell short, generating only a couple hundred thousand dollars a year at best, Costa said.
“I don’t think we ever did generate a great deal of revenue,” Costa said. “It was something that was promoted in connection with the project, originally, but it never happened.”
Despite being less than five miles away from one another in southeast Fort Worth, the existing Tarrant County Sheriff’s Training Facility and the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex are starkly different in their size and capabilities.
Fort Worth’s facility includes a practice driving track, indoor firing range, mock training village, and a virtual training software that allows officers to run through crime scenarios in an immersive virtual space.
Tarrant County has a version of this software at its center. However, it lacks a firing range, space to practice driving and adequate classroom space.
The county can also pull resources from Tarrant County College and North Central Texas Council of Governments, which also operate regional law enforcement training centers. Former County Judge Glen Whitley said he thinks there is room for the sheriff’s office to work out a deal to share the resources of Bob Bolen Safety Complex.
“I just feel if there was some sort of an effort made to have a regular schedule … I feel like both parties would be willing to work a little bit and maybe give a little bit in order to save a lot,” Whitley said.
But Precinct 4 Commissioner Manny Ramirez said Tarrant County is focused on best serving its deputies and jailers rather than the economic viability of a new training center.
“The vision is to have a world-class training facility so that we can have the best-trained sheriff’s office in the entire United States and that we can provide support to all of our smaller municipalities contained inside of Tarrant County and beyond,” Ramirez said. “No, I do not think the vision should be for it to be a revenue generator. The vision is not to run a business. The vision is to train the best law enforcement personnel in the world.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.