Monday, October 16, 2000

Landfill to become gun range

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MADISON TOWNSHIP — An abandoned landfill is being transformed into a state-of-the-art firing range for two Butler County police agencies — at no cost to taxpayers, officials said.

        West Chester Township police and the Butler County Sheriff's Office are paying for equipment and buildings with $300,000 seized from drug dealers. Each agency contributed half the needed funds.

        “Both of us need this and this way we can share the cost. Instead of us duplicating resources, we're going to share resources,” said West Chester police Capt. John Bruce. “It's going to be a nice facility out away from populated areas, where it's going to be very safe for us to train.”

        The joint effort required approval from the county government, which owns the 25-acre site, and from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which must regulate use of former landfills.

        “Nobody wants a firing range near them, so we found a place that was unique,” said Col. Richard K. Jones, the sheriff's chief deputy. “We took a landfill and built something on top of it that could be useful.”

        Located on Woodsdale Road east of Wayne-Madison Road, the firing range will help better prepare officers — and better protect the public, said sheriff's Deputy Dave Pratt, a firearms instructor.

        “An officer's got to make a split-second decision as to whether he's going to pull that trigger or not — and it's a decision he's going to have to live with for the rest of his life,” he said. “If we can give them the best possible training that's out there, they will be able to make the correct decision — and, if necessary, they'll hit what they're shooting at.”

        The firing range will include computerized moving targets, a classroom and a ballistic-walled building that can be set up to simulate hostage situations or other crises.

        The computerized targeting system is due for arrival and installation soon, Deputy Pratt said. Thousands of dollars in labor costs were saved because the work is being done by county jail inmates and by officers who donate their time, Col. Jones noted.

        State standards require Ohio police officers to pass a firearms qualification once a year. West Chester and Butler sheriff's officials say that's not enough, and the new range will allow both agencies to train officers more often.

        Although the sheriff's office did have a target-shooting site near the new firing range, rain would sometimes flood it and render it useless to the department's 170 gun-carrying personnel. That site offered only old-fashioned, stationary paper silhouette targets — insufficient training for the situations officers face, Deputy Pratt said.

        West Chester had no facility, and its 70 gun-certified officers had to squeeze in training and qualifications at other departments' facilities — a task that sometimes proved difficult, Capt. Bruce said.

        Police firearms training becomes more important as our society becomes more violent, Col. Jones said. “It's something that needs to be practiced, so it's second nature when they need to use it.”

        “Both of us need this and this way we can share the cost. Instead of us duplicating resources, we're going to share resources,” Capt. Bruce said. “It's going to be a nice facility out away from populated areas.”


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