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Kenai Police Department tests firearm proficiency

Posted: October 18, 2012 - 7:10pm  |  Updated: October 19, 2012 - 12:56pm
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Photo by M. Scott Moon Lt. Dave Ross and other officers from the Kenai Police Department fire on a target during firearm testing earlier this week at the Snowshoe Gun Club.  Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon Lt. Dave Ross and other officers from the Kenai Police Department fire on a target during firearm testing earlier this week at the Snowshoe Gun Club.

Eight Kenai Police Department officers stood in a row, three yards in front of their prospective targets, guns at the ready.

“All right,” said officer Todd Hamilton. “Three rounds: two rounds in the chest and one to the head. You got three seconds … Ready?”

A timer beeped; fingers tightened and pressed down on handgun triggers.

Pop. Pop. Pop… Gunfire on top of gunfire echoed in the distance.

The officers checked their surroundings once the gunfire ceased.

A mere 1.9 seconds had passed. Bullets hit their marks, and the officers passed the first of many drills.

The Police Department held its annual qualifying drills Wednesday at the Snow Shoe Gun Club rifle range. The drills are an annual requirement, but the Police Department undergoes additional training throughout the year. The training prepares officers for rare situations: hostile interactions involving firearms.

Officers tested for three weapons: handguns, shotguns and rifles. Firing occurred at multiple distances — two yards, seven yards, 100 yards, among others — and guidelines varied depending upon the distance.

Range masters, who trained for hours using Alaska Department of Public Safety standards, offer guidance to the officers during the qualifying drills. The day on the range serves two purposes, training and testing.

The Department of Public Safety establishes the tests. Officers are required to pass all tests. If they fail to do so, a range master instructs them through the drills until they succeed.

The Police Department’s eight officers testing Wednesday afternoon passed all drills on first attempt. Every officer, from investigators to the chief, is required to pass, said Sgt. Kelly George.

Pistol qualification drills are from two to 25 yards. At the longest distance, officers are allowed to try different stances, like lying on the ground. Guidelines set 20 seconds as the time limit for the distance.

“That’s a lot of time, guys,” Hamilton said. “Make those shots count.”

“From this far away, it’s challenging,” George said. “If the officer has an issue with form, grip or stance, this is where it will show. The slightest hesitation or hiccup, they’ll miss by a foot and a half.”

At 10 yards, the officers shoot with their non-dominant hands, which simulates an injured limb.

“We go through training on different things like disabled limbs … because if we don’t train, we wouldn’t know what to do in real-life situations.”

The Police Department follows four major firearms rules: all guns are always loaded; never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy; keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target, and you are ready to fire; and be sure of the target as well as your surroundings.

All firearm owners should adopt the first rule, George said. Treating every weapon as if it’s loaded reduces the potential for once-in-a-blue-moon-type accidents.

The fourth rule is essential to officers, he said. If an officer finds himself or herself in a harmful situation, an awareness of their surroundings must be established. They need to account for every round fired.

“Law enforcement situations are very dynamic, and they happen very fast,” George said. “But the officer has to take many things into consideration.”

Officers train throughout the year to prepare. They are given a number of rounds each month and are encouraged to practice alone and with coworkers.

Additional training includes Semunitions, replicate paint ball firearms. Those are used in live training scenarios, which involve movement. The qualifying drills are static.

The Police Department also tries to send a range master once a year to a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, or FLETC, to learn the latest in nationwide law enforcement tactics. The courses are coveted, George said.

“It’s important that we stay up to date on firearm skills, rules, safety,” said officer Levi Russell. “It’s like anything else. If you don’t stay with it, you’ll lose it.”

While the training is frequent and intense, actual instances in which Kenai officers discharge firearms are rare. However, deployment — removing a firearm from the holster — of weapons may be more common than people realize, George said.

Out of the eight officers shooting Wednesday afternoon, only two had ever discharged their weapons, he said.

“Some officers go their entire careers without having to discharge their weapons,” George said.

Russell said other than euthanizing moose, he’s never discharged his weapon during a call.

Firearms are deployed during reports of burglaries, or investigations of late-night business alarms being set off by someone or something. The officers clear the scene, so a family can safely return home and investigators can work uninterrupted.

This summer, many altercations involving officers have occurred. Suspects have shot or shot at Alaska State Troopers and city officers. Kenai and Soldotna have had no such incidents, however.

The discussion is everlasting regardless of an increase in incidents, and the Police Department regularly receives updates from state and Outside agencies, George said.

“We have an increased awareness, at least,” he said. “The chief will send out information to the staff about situations. We do talk about those things all the time, but we’re not sitting down and discussing increasing rates.”

Following the handgun drills, the officers switched to shotguns. They tested with buckshot as well as slugs. The last exam involved .223 modern rifles, and the officers shot from distances of 100 yards.

The three types of weapons all have been deployed at some point, George said.

Later, the officers practiced active training. For example, offices ran 100 yards then shot at targets — training for another rare situation, a pursuit.

 

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

This story has been revised to correct a typographical error.


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lkpomn912
931
Points
lkpomn912 10/24/12 - 04:27 pm
1
0
You guys can have it, nothing to see here

Out of 30 comments
‘Norm’ 10 long comments.
‘WotW’ wrote 8 long comments.
You guys can have it. Nothing to see here anyhow. I'm cat-napping.

Watchman on the Wall
2893
Points
Watchman on the Wall 10/24/12 - 04:38 pm
0
1
You do know that there are 5 drones flying Alaska skies

5 drones in Alaska now, and for what?
When i see exmilitary twist words around LIKE HAS BEEN DONE TO ME and wish they could sit in judgment of ME or other fellow Americans who are arrested by OUR Govt. for expression of opinion like some here on this site do, then i do question WHO CAN YOU TRUST.
We do see a Socialist State coming to America at every turn and trying to pretend that it's not will not stop it, nor will pretending that we have Fellow Americans in ALL areas of life that are pushing for this STATE CONTROLED SOCIETY don't also exist, then we are just as foolish as those that think Judgment Day is not coming for ALL that want it their way, instead of Gods way.
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but i can spot BS coming from a long ways off and it is coming in the promises presented by BOTH PARTIES WHICH HAVE THE SAME END GAME GOALS.
I'll TRUST in God and his promises Thank You, i've seen mens promises and helped promote them for many years and they show NO HOPE as nothing ever changes for any Good, never.

normolson
428
Points
normolson 10/24/12 - 07:35 pm
0
2
Drones? No problem. Already got it covered.

I'm really amazed that Alaskans (of all people) would sit quietly by while the federal government is doing to America what Nazi Germany did to those people in the 30's.

Well, I guess you get what you deserve...

As far as drones are concerned, they make great target practice...

Did you know that Alaska will be soon using drones to survey land useage including what you may be doing on your own property... Your Governor will allow it since he has sold out to the feds.

That glimmer in the sky isn't watching me because I've got the firepower to take them down... but woe be unto you if you pound a nail into a hunk of lumber... Big Brother IS skyborne.

JOAT
490
Points
JOAT 10/24/12 - 07:58 pm
1
0
Take a chill pill

An amazing dive into petty bickering that started out way off topic (compared to the article) and got worse along the way. As granny would say, "tsk, tsk. you kids need to take a break."

The article was about our local LE conducting their annual firearms qualifications. This is a job requirement. You have to take the test every year to be able to use the tools for the job. For LE, one of the tools is a firearm. As a general rule, police departments don't spend a fraction of the time that they should on training with firearms. It is quite costly to hire professional instructors, obtain range time, buy ammo and targets, and pay your employees to go to the range. It is one of those skills that you can't get from viewing a PowerPoint presentation at work.

A "friend" of mine [;)] has a private sector job that requires carrying a firearm at work. The private sector involved provides at least 3 full days of firearm training and qualification every year. They average 3 times more training on firearm proficiency every year than the majority of police departments do and about a third more training than even the State Troopers have to do. Our LE folks are simply not getting the training they need.

Though I did notice one big difference; in the private sector, if you don't qualify you're fired. In the LE, I was amazed to hear that they would "coach" a police officer who can't shoot through the "test" until they pass it. That is completely mental and inviting a massive law suit if such an officer is ever involved in a shooting that "doesn't go well". It is also a symptom of an overall poorly managed firearm's training program.

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