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Police consider moving firearms training to summer

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By Laura Clark

The Shelbyville Police Department, whose firing range is under scrutiny because of its proximity to elementary schools, is considering moving all activities there to non-school hours, Police Major Danny Goodwin said.

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  "We're flexible; we'll bend," Goodwin said. "The last thing we want to do is put someone's life in jeopardy.  

 "Now that we're looking at this very heavily, we're considering no live fire exercises during school hours.

  "We're evaluating this and working with the school board to see if any changes, if needed, will be made."

  The outdoor firing range, located behind the city's sewage treatment plant off Kentucky Street, is less than half a mile from Clear Creek and Southside elementary schools.  

  That proximity came to light last week when a former sergeant, John Wilson, said concerns he had expressed about that location had gone unheeded by his superiors. He later left the force.   

Shelbyville Police Chief Robert Schutte said that the department would review the situation. 

 Officers train at the site twice a year, in April and October. Those sessions in April are daylight training, and Goodwin said these could be moved to the summer months.  

   Training sessions in October are specifically for night-firing, and a session Thursday included two officers taking part in the necessary firearms qualifications.  

 Night training excercise      

 Boots squished through saturated ground as the officers gathered ear and eye protection. The firing range is down in a gully and a floodplain of Clear Creek,  which runs parallel to stationary targets before bending northeast beyond the range.

    

 Two metal barrels smoked with the remnants of bullet-riddled paper. The firing range has no electricity, so officers used the flashing cruiser lights and one spotlight to provide just enough ambient light to see.

  Officers Nick Fiscante and Scott Simpson began the tests with stationary drills, firing Glock Model 22s, a .40-caliber handgun that officers carry on duty.

  Fiscante and Simpson started out just a few feet from the targets. Firearms instructors Tom Cypert and Jeff McClean were behind and beside the two through these drills, blowing a whistle to signal firing.

  Pop-pop! Fiscante and Simpson kneel and fire, the noise muffled by ear gear. Each burst of fire is a tiny flash of light. Then the officers reholstered the guns before moving to a position further back. The farthest they will shoot is between 20 and 25 feet.

  Real bullets are fired for the stationary tests. Goodwin said this allows officers not to waste the bullets they've been carrying around for months and need replacing as they break down.

  For other drills, officers use lead-free bullets that crumble on contact. One of these drills is a simulated traffic stop.  

 Rough terrain  

  A dark sedan had its nose in a 15-foot embankment by the creek. Fiscante and Simpson took turns shooting at a cardboard figure firing from the car as well as approaching the car to clear it and shooting in the car at another figure holding a gun.

  Through these drills, Cypert and McClean had one hand on the shoulder of Fiscante and Simpson, both giving directions and guiding the officers over slick ground.

  Beyond the sedan, and across the creek is a bluff that rises more than 60 feet from the creek. Behind the targets are six-foot berms and dense trees rising like the sides of a bowl.

  The officers did one more combat-like drill, moving around barriers with swift, controlled gestures before shooting targets.

  "We add some of the skills that you should have to stay alive as a police officer," Goodwin said.

  The final test is with a Remington 870 police shotgun. Fiscante and Simpson fired buckshot. The farthest shots are 18 feet out.

  Then for both officers, having met qualifications, the night noise returns to crickets and humming engines.