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Fire, Police 'Farm Team' Being Lined Up; Public safety academy would be established at Madison High, creating careers, readying recruits

DALLAS -- The city of Dallas and Dallas schools are working to create a public safety academy at Madison High School that would become a "farm team" for new police and fire/EMS recruits.

No final agreements have been inked, but officials hope the new academy can kick off for the 2009-10 school year. Under the plan, students would receive college credit hours for public safety classes taught by instructors from the Dallas County Community College District.

DISD trustee Ron Price, who has been spearheading the academy effort, said he sees it as a win-win for everybody involved because Madison is now half empty.

"This helps me fill up an empty building, and this gives the kids a career path," Mr. Price said.

Many details remain up in the air, such as which agency would pay for what and how many students would be involved.

Dallas Police Deputy Chief Floyd Simpson, who heads the police recruiting division, believes that the academy could help the department as it rapidly expands.

"If we can't go out and recruit enough people, then this is a way to develop a farm system," Chief Simpson said.

Police have stepped up recruiting in recent years. The department is seeking a net gain of about 200 officers this fiscal year even as recruiting nationally has become more competitive.

Dallas Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Daniel Salazar, who commands his department's training division, said a fire academy program in Austin is the model he's using. Students there can get firefighter and emergency medical technician certification at LBJ High School.

Chief Salazar said he sees this playing a vital role in diversifying the ranks of the department, which is still largely white. "It's grass-roots recruiting," he said. "We've got a diverse [City] Council, and they'd like to see the department reflect its population."

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