Since August of last year, when a stray bullet ricochet left an officer with a minor injury during a training session, the Independence Police Department has been using the firing range at the Lee's Summit Police Department for a majority of its training.
The range in the ground floor of the Central Police Building – constructed in 1972 but with no major work done to it since, police said – has been shut down since that the incident. On Monday the City Council likely will vote on a contract to gut and rebuild that firing range.
The proposed contract with TRS Range Services, which specializes in firing ranges for law enforcement agencies across the country, is for $545,340.
Police Major Ken Jarnagin, who outlined the project during a city council study session Tuesday, said a seven-member committee of police and public works personnel judged TRS unanimously had TRS near the top of its list, and it came highly recommended. The city entered into a design contract with TRS in December. If the renovation project is approved, Jarnagin said IPD anticipates it will take about four months.
Chief Tom Dailey said range had been targeted for replacement when police safety sales tax initially was approved by voters in 2004, but a revenue shortfall due to the recession shelved the project.
The department put in extra catch blankets to briefly extend the firing range's lifespan, but the training injury necessitated more drastic circumstances.
“The amount of weaponry, training and liability has increased drastically the last 40 years,” Dailey said.
The arrangement with Lee's Summit has been a “logistical nightmare,” Jarnagin said, “but they've been really gracious.”
Independence police already had been using the outdoor range in Sugar Creek for its rifle training, as the old range in IPD's building didn't have capacity to handle rifle fire. But for that same reason Sugar Creek is a popular site for many other law enforcement agencies as well, Jarnagin explained, and IPD officers have one Monday a month to get in their required annual rifle training.
Officers are required twice a year to qualify in handgun shooting, and some will practice an extra two or three times a month to keep their skills sharp, Jarnagin said.
Dailey said after Tuesday's meeting that Independence, Blue Springs and Lee's Summit police forces often reach out to help each other with jail space and weapons training if a construction project puts a squeeze on one department. The fact the Lee's Summit Police Department is led by former Independence deputy chief Travis Forbes has aided the current arrangement.
“It certainly helped the transition,” Dailey said.
Outsourcing training to private firing ranges isn't feasible, Jarnagin said, due to those ranges' stationary booths, time constraints and the accumulating costs. Many training drills involve an officer moving around, using barricades and working in dim lights or with a malfunctioning gun, and sometimes a hastily scheduled session can happen during overnight hours.
The proposed IPD project would lessen its number of stationary booths from four to five, and a non-stationary drill might allow for just two users, Jarnagin said, but a renovated firing range would also allow for rifle training.
The renovation project would be paid for with police sales tax funds. Independence voters approved the extension of the 1/8 of 1 percent sales tax to fund police capital improvements on April 5.