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We were surprised to learn last week – as were members of the Shelbyville City Council, apparently – that the Shelbyville Police Department had decided to do the right thing: eliminate target practice from its shooting range off Kentucky Street.
This range became an issue in October 2009 because of concerns raised by a former sergeant about officers’ firing live ammunition in the vicinity – a few hundred yards – of two elementary schools and aimed in the direction of one of them.
SPD Chief Robert Schutte had said at the time that his department didn’t believe the range was a problem, that bullets couldn’t reach the schools because of a berm that protected the eastern end, within sight and sound of Clear Creek Elementary.
But with Shelby County Public Schools announcing it would build a new elementary next to Southside, which is also near the range, we suggested that it was time for the city council to push the issue of the range’s location and its safety.
Surprisingly, the very next day, Mr. Schutte told the council that his department had ceased the practice of firing live ammo at the range – though drills with simulated ammunition are conducted there – and had moved its target-shooting qualifications to a commercial indoor range in Shelbyville.
We think Mr. Schutte has hit the bull’s-eye with this decision, but we are left with several questions clearly visible in our sites:
Why was this decision not disclosed when it was made?
And, moreover, why didn’t Mr. Schutte and his staff evaluate this option when former Sgt. John Wilson suggested it more than a year ago?
Why did Mr. Schutte and others say in October that this range wasn’t a problem and then make a decision that obviously suggests that they think it is?
And why in doing the right thing did they feel the need to do so with a veil of secrecy?
Could it be that there was an effort to keep quiet the resounding echo of validation for a former employee’s claims?
Mr. Wilson long since has left the department. He said at the time that he was harassed for bringing up the matter of the range’s location.
As we have said previously, we aren’t privy to Mr. Wilson’s performance record, so we don’t know what other factors that may have been elements of his departure. We do know that he was promoted during his term within the department and part of Leadership Shelby’s class of 2007.
But clearly Mr. Wilson’s expressed concerns were viable. Clearly, the matter required review.
Clearly, Mr. Schutte and his department recognized all of this when the matter was cast into the light of day and not remanded in departmental darkness.
And – just as clearly – Mr. Schutte has made a very good decision that means some of our children are a bit safer, even if no one believes they were in harm’s way in the first place.