PHARR — South Texas College has appointed Police Chief Paul Varville as chief administrator for its upcoming law enforcement center, where they expect to train thousands of agents from across the Rio Grande Valley.
“I’ll be overseeing the new regional training center, that includes maintenance of the facility, making sure that this includes the proper training for all law enforcement — federal, state, county and local, making sure that it provides educational credits,” said Varville about the upcoming Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, or RCPSE.
Varville has worked for the college for 10 years as chief administrator of the South Texas College Department of Public Safety. But prior to this, his 38-year-long law enforcement career involved serving as special agent in charge of the criminal investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service and federal security director with the Department of Homeland Security.
The $71.28 million master plan for the center is being opened in phases with the first one being slated for completion by the fall of 2018. This involves an initial investment of nearly $10 million aimed at building a training center for law enforcement, public safety and criminal justice. The center will include a driving skills/skid pad, a shooting simulation lab and a driving simulation lab.
“This is a unique opportunity for all law enforcement in the Valley,” Varville said. It will “provide enhanced training for their officers, which will develop their skills and also provide them an opportunity to get a better education.”
The center is scheduled to open Aug. 23, as its first building is slated for completion in July, he said. It will begin by offering courses such as report writing, conducting an investigation, enhanced fingerprint techniques, forensics training and emergency vehicle operation.
The goal, however, is to not only offer professional development but also academic credits leading to certificates and degrees, included those required by the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement, known as TCOLE.
“Our goal is to conduct advanced training for law enforcement, that we’ll be able to provide academic course credit for that which will lead to a degree,” he said. “If it’s a peace officer in the state of Texas, to provide TCOLE credit so that they will meet their requirements of getting 40 hours of credit every two years and also advance them through TCOLE certificates up to the master’s certificate.”
His role as chief administrator for the college’s Department of Public Safety will continue for now, he said. But this project is expected to grow over the years until final completion of a Public Safety, Law Enforcement, Fire Science, and Homeland Security Campus aimed for 2030.
The college has already partnered with regional law enforcement agencies including Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Texas Department of Public Safety, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, Starr County Sheriff’s Department, and many of the Valley’s police departments, he said.
And because all of the training is intended to accommodate the needs of these departments and agencies, the college developed a council with representatives from the agencies to weigh in on their needs.
Most recently, Varville said they initiated a survey identifying potential courses that could be offered. Once they get the feedback, college officials will prioritize training needs and develop the courses.
“These are the leaders of the various organizations that we are working with,” Varville said. “We also asked the council members to identify additional courses that they would like to have us present.”
Once the courses are identified, they will ask each agency to report how many agents they would need to have trained in those areas to determine the number of classes and instructors needed.
“We plan on having no restrictions,” Varville said. “We’ll make the schedule so that every agency has an opportunity to get trained.”