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Training needs: New firearms range planned for Kane County Sheriff's Office

Published: Saturday, April 5, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 12:34 p.m. CST
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Sgt. Chris Peeler of the Kane County Sheriff's Department works a session at the St. Charles Police Department Public Safety Training Facility. The Kane County Board has approved building a new, indoor firing range adjacent to the Kane County Sheriff's Department main facility on Route 38 in St. Charles.

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez – who leads a department with more than 200 personnel needing firearms training – said it didn’t matter to him if a new shooting range would be completed during his term.

He just wanted to know that ground would be broken on the nearly $2 million project and that it would be a reality, he said.

In the weeks leading up to last month’s Kane County Board meeting, Perez and his staff stated their case for the firearms range, which came in more than $800,000 over initial estimates.

The County Board had the foresight to plan an on-site firearms range when the sheriff’s Fabyan Parkway facility was built in the 1970s, he said. He said the need for such a facility never changed just because the sheriff’s office moved to Route 38.

The County Board ultimately approved the extra funding needed to build the shooting range, which – depending on weather – should be completed by the end of October.

“You have no idea what a big relief this has been to me,” said Perez, who is not running for re-election in November.

The Kane County Sheriff’s Office has been without a shooting range for more than a year. Its Fabyan Parkway facility flooded and was contaminated by lead and mold, Perez said, noting it also had ventilation problems.

Since then, Perez said, his 244 personnel – deputies, court security officers and corrections officers – have trained at the St. Charles Police Department’s outdoor range off Route 38. His office also has gotten help from North Aurora and Carpentersville, he said.

This has resulted in overtime costs and lost productivity because personnel must not only travel off-site but also must work around the other agencies’ schedules and, in the case of the outdoor range, inclement weather and daylight hours, Perez said.

“When the new firearms range is erected on our grounds, it’s a matter of they’ll walk 100 yards,” he said.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Pat Gengler said in an email that use of St. Charles’ range cost $2,000 last year.

Exact overtime costs related to firearms training is difficult to determine because the department doesn’t keep separate overtime records, and some deputies accomplished some of the qualifications during normal working hours, Gengler said. An estimate of what it could cost is $60,000 to $80,000, Gengler said, noting that is based on about 2,300 hours the sheriff’s office had reserved on the St. Charles range.

“This would be for a year and total estimate if we had to pay all of our staff to qualify when the range is available and not necessarily when the deputies are available,” he said.

Gengler said the estimate accounts for the state mandated qualification, not for additional training. That puts the sheriff’s office at a disadvantage, as one of the biggest dollar lawsuits filed against police departments is a failure to train, he said.

“By us not having a range,” Gengler said, “we would be mostly focusing on just the state mandated qualification and not be able to provide consistent and quality tactical training to our staff.”

The new range will allow officers to train for various situations and conditions, Perez said, adding that a squad car will be able to be brought inside. Classroom space is also planned, he said.

Other agencies are interested in using the new facility, including North East Multi-Regional Training. NEMRT Director Phil Brankin said his academy provides training to more than 300 police departments in metropolitan Chicago. Because its classes rotate throughout its service area, Brankin said he needs good classroom facilities in dozens of locations.

His organization would get a “great deal of use” out of the Kane County sheriff’s classroom, as well as its firearms range, Brankin said. He said the organization currently doesn’t offer firearms training in Kane County.

Brankin described the sheriff’s new facility as a good investment because it will help train law enforcement personnel outside of the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.

“That benefits the community as a whole,” he said.

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