New Haven Register – Police officers utilize tools, training against realistic foes in mobile firing range
By William Kaempffer, Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — “Your partner is going to die!”
Those were the words of an intruder who had a police officer in a choke hold with a pistol to his head.
“Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” yelled police Officers Frank Lett and Diego Quintero, their own service weapons drawn and trained on the volatile situation unfolding on the balcony above them.
Their partner suddenly broke free and dove to the ground. The officers let off a burst of gunfire.
The officers Wednesday used real tactics, real guns and real bullets in this live-fire training exercise inside a rented mobile firing range stationed for three weeks in a parking lot near the West River. Videotaped scenarios flash on a screen at the far end of the trailer. Officers react, shouting commands. Sometimes situations demand deadly force; others, restraint.
“Every officer who’s come through loves it. It’s an opportunity to apply training in scenario-based programs,” said Capt. Patrick Redding, who runs the department training division. Officers qualify yearly in firearms training, which tends to be more static, and have refreshers on use of their police baton. A few years ago, the department began phasing in Tasers. All can come into play during the exercises.
The department rented the trailer for three weeks from Blue Line Corp., a Sudbury, Mass.-based company that provides mobile ranges. It will be run virtually around the clock until more than 400 officers cycle through it, and was paid for by a $30,000 federal grant.
The shooting augments the annual requalification every officer completes. From Assistant Chief Roy Brown’s perspective, it’s a valuable training tool that takes into account neighborhood considerations. The department’s outside range at 710 Sherman Pkwy. is plunked in the middle of residential neighborhoods, and neighbors have long complained about the racket. The city views this as a compromise. The trailer is parked in a fairly remote lot along Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, away from homes so training can go on at all hours. It’s also soundproofed.
Aldermen Mordechai Sandman and Katrina Jones, whose wards are most affected by the existing range and who have been pressing the city for a permanent solution to the noise problem, were invited for a tour.
“It was cool,” said Sandman. “I felt the adrenaline rushing though me when you see the officers in different situations.”
The city is exploring locations in the city for an indoor firing range, but any solution likely is years away, expensive and, at this point, unfunded.
“They make it look as real as possible for what we face every day,” said Quintero after finishing in the trailer. He’s been on the force for 11 years.
Lett, on the department’s motorcycle squad, said, “It’s the most realistic training we’ve ever had. It actually gets your blood pumping.”