Shooting range remodeling to aid police

Published 3:44 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Work is underway to upgrade the shooting range Bainbridge Public Safety shares with the Sheriff’s Office and a variety of other local agencies.

Local law enforcement officers routinely use the range, located off U.S. 84 West near the Commodore Decatur Industrial Park, for required marksmanship testing as well as for training with different weapons and different shooting situations they may face.

To better meet the needs of local law enforcement, the range is being expanded and its facilities are being upgraded, said Capt. Ryan Wimberley, BPS’ training officer.

Email newsletter signup

Although Georgia law only requires officers to pass qualifying tests with their service firearms once per year, Bainbridge Public Safety requires its officers to qualify at least twice per year, Sgt. Wimberley said.

Sheriff’s deputies also use the range for firearms qualification tests and training, as well as the Decatur County Correctional Institute, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Southwest Drug Task Force, the police chiefs of Attapulgus and Climax and other area law enforcement agencies. Occasionally, the agencies’ shared use of the shooting range could lead to scheduling conflicts, so the range is being expanded, Wimberley said.

A tract of woods adjacent to the existing shooting range has been cleared and a new dirt berm has been built. The larger area will enable officers to practice riflery. Georgia state troopers and Sheriff’s deputies already carry rifles and shotguns in their patrol cars. BPS is planning to train its officers to be able to use carbines, lightweight semiautomatic rifles, which would provide them extra protection in the event of a dangerous incident such as a bank robbery, Wimberley said.

New training capabilities

Officers will be able to use the new area for conventional target practice or as a modular training ground in which obstacles or cover can be moved around to simulate a real-world environment, Wimberley said. Construction has also begun on a building that will mimic the layout of a house, in which officers can practice moving around with drawn weapons like they would during a drug raid or confronting a dangerous suspect, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office’s tactical response unit, trained to handle SWAT-style incidents, has used the shooting range regularly to train both with and without ammunition.

The existing shooting range has been overhauled: lead from years of shooting practice was removed and a new dirt berm built up from scratch. The target system, which runs on a concrete track, is being redone and a covered shelter is being partially enclosed to house computers that operate the targets.

Sgt. Jim Schiffner, who oversees inmate and community service work crews for Bainbridge Public Safety, said all aspects of the shooting range expansion and remodeling have been a team effort between the City of Bainbridge, Decatur County Commissioners, the office of Sheriff Wiley Griffin and the Decatur County Correctional Institute.

Inmate work crews split up the logs cut down by the land clearing and as a result, firewood is being offered free of charge to city and county government employees, Schiffner said.

While not generally open to citizens, some members of the community will get to take advantage of the remodeled shooting range once the work is done.

Wimberley said he and Capt. James Spooner, training officer at the Sheriff’s Office, plan to hold more firearms safety and familiarity classes for women sometime in the near future.