Eagle Tribune – Police fired up over mobile shooting range
By Jim Patten
LAWRENCE — Two city cops stand with their guns drawn outside a school in lockdown. There is a report of a man with a gun inside.
Suddenly the doors to the school burst open and students stream out as the officers struggle to see if someone among them has a gun.
Seconds after the last student runs away from the doors, a man rans out clutching a pistol in his right hand.
The officers yell at him to drop the weapon. When he doesn’t, the officers open fire.
Then the lights come on and the video screen goes blank.
The only real part of the scenario was Officer Gary Yancey and Capt. Roy Vasque and the shots they fired at the man with the gun.
The two have just taken part in one of 20 “shoot — don’t shoot” video scenarios in which their skills are put to the test — all part of the Lawrence Police weapons qualifications.
But there is a new wrinkle.
Officers are qualifying two at a time in a long trailer that houses a mobile shooting range parked behind the police station.
In years past, officers went to the Lawrence Rod and Gun Club’s outdoor range for weapons qualification.
But that necessitated scheduling several officers at a time and paying them four hours of overtime.
In a bid to protect the department’s overtime account, Training Officer Lt. Scott Crocker came up with the idea to use the Blue Line Corp.’s Mobile Firearms Training Range.
“Instead of bringing the officers to the range, we are bringing the range to them,” Police Chief John Romero said.
The arrangement allows the department to call in two officers at a time off the street to qualify with their service revolvers while they are on duty.
Last year, the department spent $35,000 to conduct weapons qualifications for 161 officers.
Even with fewer officers — 108 due to layoffs — qualifying this year, the cost for using the mobile range is about $11,000, police said.
The officers still fire at man-shaped silhouette targets and do night shooting, in the trailer, but the “shoot — don’t shoot” scenarios are providing the officers with a valuable opportunity to test their reactions to scenarios they find themselves in on a regular basis such as responding to domestic disputes, a traffic stop, being on lunch break at a restaurant, a hostage situation, alarm calls, and similar events.
“It was great,” Yancey said. “There were a lot of scenarios we could encounter every day.”
Vasque agreed. “I thought it was very good,” he said. “Obviously the scenarios make you think more about that at the range. It was very productive.”
Crocker said the lifelike video scenarios were applicable to the daily lives of police officers.
“Every officer responded to domestic disputes. Every officer does car stops, and every officer responds to alarm calls and checks buildings,” he said.
Romero said the response to the training thus far has been enthusiastic.
“We are very encouraged by the officer feedback on this and it is something we want to continue,” he said.