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Front Page » November 5, 2002 » Scene » All Fired Up
Published 5,220 days ago

All Fired Up

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Sheriff's Office takes to the shooting range for training

Shooting twirlers was part of the training.

The Emery County Sheriff's Office participated in firearms training recently at their shooting range. Detective Bob Blackburn and Captain Kyle Ekker are Utah State Post Certified Instructors and conducted the training which lasted from noon until dark over a period of three days. Captain Ekker and Detective Blackburn attend training each year and spend a week at law enforcement camp where they spend all their time learning how to teach others to safely use their firearm and also perfecting their own skills with their gun. They also practice with action targets at the camp.

During the recent training, each officer had to spend one day on the range, many on their scheduled day off. This rigorous training is conducted at least four times each year. The Emery County Sheriff's Office places great importance on firearms training and holds more training sessions than required by law each year.

Detective Blackburn said, "We begin by going over the basics of safety. We go over the basics thoroughly and it never becomes routine. They begin with the steps of the draw where they learn never to cross the weapon which could result in getting someone hurt as the weapon is drawn. They learn what to do if their gun were to malfunction and to handle the situation safely. They learn how to reload quickly. They don't worry about the clips and just drop one clip out and efficiently and quickly load the new clip in. They are taught to keep their finger off the trigger and to treat every gun as if it were loaded. They learn to know their target and what is beyond their target. They learn these rules step by step and could probably repeat them to you in their sleep. We go over them every time. They hand the gun, clear the leather holster, lock their wrists and sight and scan, aim and fire.

"They shoot a static line course where the officers are all lined up in a row and they shoot at targets which are five, 10 and 15 yards away. They will shoot up a couple of clips of ammunition at each of the distances as they move farther from the target.. Accuracy is very important and they must pass the course with 80 percent accuracy. They are scored for accuracy and each course is also timed. Most of the shooting required in our field is done at point blank range so we emphasize close range shooting accuracy.

"We also go over when you should use force and situations when you can and cannot shoot a suspect. We go over possible scenario situations and play them out on the range. We emphasize the force continuum which starts with a verbal talk down which may escalate to hands on. Pepper spray is also used as a deterrent. Situations can escalate to the use of force but this is always a last resort. It is better to be trained and never have to use it, than not to know what to do in each possible situation. Of course, there are some things we can't practice because each crime situation is different, but the more training our men have the better they will be able to think and act under pressure.

Ready, aim and fire was the command of the day.

"We practice with hollow point bullets which are cheaper to practice with because we go through a lot of rounds. Our duty rounds are a better quality bullet. We practice with hand guns, shotguns, rifles, AR-15 and M-16. The duty weapons we use are all 40 caliber. We have a list of the brands the officers can choose from, Smith and Wesson and others. We try to be overly prepared and hope we never have to use a lot of the training. There is a big liability involved with the use of firearms, even pointing a gun at a suspect.

"Along with the static line course there is a practice course, qualification course, combat course and the shot gun course where the men do some trap shooting. They also shoot some twirling targets which they knock back and forth as they hit them. Each clip contains 12-15 rounds and they carry two loaded clips on their belts. They are timed on everything and it should take them four seconds to draw and shoot," said Detective Blackburn.

Sergeant Les Wilberg has been with the sheriff's office since 1984. He said, "I think the training has been really helpful to me over the years. It helps with your accuracy and you become very familiar with your gun as you practice with it time after time. It's just like anything else you have to stay in practice."

Captain Ekker said, "We shoot twice as much ammo as at other trainings. If they shoot ample ammo they get a lot of practice and it's easier for them in their qualifying round. We are also training the men on the use of less than lethal, which is a bean bag round which they shoot from their 12 gauge shotguns. Each of the men on patrol carry a shot gun with them. The bean bag round would be used when the officer has the gun in hand and cannot apprehend the suspect, then the result would be to turn to the less than lethal load. This load would knock the suspect down with minimal injury to him and result in apprehending the suspect. This would be used after the verbal warning, hands on or pepper spray didn't work.

"This would only be used as an incident dictates. This would be used before an officer resorts to deadly force; whatever it might take for the officer to remain in charge of the situation. I think the firearms training is extremely important it teaches the officers discipline and they do a good job. They will know when and how to use deadly force if the situation arises. Our officers are being trained with the bean bag loads but we don't have them in the patrol cars yet. We have to write the policy and have it approved by Sheriff Lamar Guymon and then it will go to the county attorney's office. But, this will just give us one more option for apprehension," said Captain Ekker.

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November 5, 2002
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