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VALPARAISO — Police forces looking to sharpen their skills to improve service will have a plethora of new opportunities as the Multi Agency Academic Cooperative Emergency Services Training Campus expands this year.

Friday morning, ground was broken for a building the nonprofit joint-police and fire training campus is calling the “tactical training structure,” a 4,200-square-foot steel building for SWAT, K-9 and patrol exercises.

“Seeing a new building come up on the law enforcement side is part of our quest. I'm really happy to see this,” said MAAC Founder Stewart McMillan.

The building was designed by a committee of local law enforcement who met last fall to discuss what was needed to train law enforcement in the Region.

Training courses planned for the facility include storming buildings, searches inside cars and buildings as well as routine traffic stops. In addition, it can become a normal classroom with a projector in a pinch. To accomplish this, it can be reconfigured with a variety of wall blanks, stairs and more for a variety of training scenarios

“What often happens is memorization kicks in where people think 'Oh I've been in this before.' We don't want them to ever be comfortable in that regard,” said Celina Weatherwax, a spokeswoman for MAAC. “By having reconfigurable walls we're working to avoid that.”

The building is set to finish construction in September and is mostly being funded by the McMillan Family Foundation, one of the main groups behind MAAC. The organization is investing $600,000 into the structure.

“We are literally waiting for the weather to clear up to start,” said Weatherwax. “We're ready, everything's in place, the plans are in place, we just couldn't start this week because of the rain.”

More events and expansions are planned into 2020 at the MAAC campus.

In June, the group will host a K-9 training conference with a new facility on the east side of campus. The area will feature an obstacle course for physical training as well as spaces for drug detection and cadaver retrieval.

“We're expecting somewhere around 250 K-9 dogs here on campus training for an entire week,” Weatherwax said.

In late winter to early spring of 2020, a new virtual reality facility is planned to be built.

That building will feature a wide panoramic set of five screens that will display a scenario for officers to respond to in real time.

Funding for the building is coming from the state of Indiana to the tune of $250,000.

“We all need to work together to make things happen,” said State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, who helped secure the funding. “For me, Stewart McMillan and the MAAC foundation was an easy sell and it was all about getting someone to help pay for that easy sell. I have to thank McMillan for letting me be a small part of this.”

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