The new Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training (SMART) center opened Monday in Inver Grove Heights, giving local law enforcement a place to learn how to handle distress calls for help.
The 35,000-square-foot Smart Center, located on Highway 52 near Inver Hills Community College, will be a crisis and de-escalation training hub for first responders and will give the Minnesota Crisis Intervention team a much-needed office and training space.
Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said there are five different training rooms that can be modified to fit any situation. Trainers can make a room look like a bar, bedroom, or storefront to help officers properly train in those areas. All rooms are recorded so that first responders can see themselves and get instant feedback.
Leslie said the police encounter people who are suffering from mental illness and other crises. The authorities need to be ready to help them effectively.
“Certainly, the mental health issues facing our communities and law enforcement may seem insurmountable at times, but with partnerships like this, we can make progress,” Dakota County Board Chair Mary Liz Holberg said in a prepared statement. are going.”
The smart center cost approximately $12.8 million to build, and received funding from Dakota County ($6.6 million) and state bonding ($6.2 million). It has been a joint project between the county and the state, with planning starting in 2017.
The Crisis Intervention team previously “had no place to train, so they would go across the state for sponsored training, they would (train) like a closed school, or some public building,” Leslie said. “It’s really going to take it to the next level.”
First responders from across the state will be able to visit the Smart Center for such training. The location is easy for metro and southeastern Minnesota first responders, and travelers from far and wide can stay at nearby hotels.
“We’re really looking forward to making an impact on law enforcement in general, but here in Dakota County in particular,” Leslie said.
The building will also house the Dakota County Electronic Crime Unit, specializing in electronic devices for evidence in criminal cases, and the Dakota County Drug Task Force, a partnership with local police departments, which focuses on drug, gang and violent crimes.