By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Police Sgt. Wayne Albright expressed concern at the Oct. 25 council meeting that a possible site for a relocated city hall and police department lacks room for a gun range.
A site under consideration by the council, the former Oakwood Health Care Center, 15915 Southfield Road, near 24th District Court, 6515 Roosevelt, lacks space and infrastructure to accommodate a gun range for ongoing officer training.
“I gave a very detailed explanation of how important a gun range would be to the process of this building, whether it’s a new construction or renovating an existing building here in town,” Albright said. “Tonight to find out that we are moving forward with the Oakwood property is a further disappointment because I know that property never included a gun range.”
Albright expressed disappointment that none of the council members approached him with any questions about gun ranges and compromises that could have been considered.
“We’ve gone almost 14 years without one, and we have been able to skate by, and — knock on wood — not much has happened,” he said. “But times have changed. A lot has been happening lately. In the last few years, active shooters and workplace violence is increasing and on the rise exponentially.”
Albright said the first three months of 2016, officer involved shootings and deaths of officers more than doubled nationally from last year. He said out of a 12-day span in September, 11 officers were shot and killed.
“So there is a need, a big need, for officers’ safety, for more training, because the times require it,” Albright said. “Maybe not 10 years ago, but now I think they do.”
He said the members of the Allen Park Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association feel strongly that a new police department should include a gun range and training facility, and it is an essential tool that will allow the department to continue to improve personnel training, which in turn will contribute to resident safety.
“I’m here to make sure that the officers are protected,” Albright said. “This decision will affect the officers that are in grade school right now, officers that are not even born yet that will decide they want a career in law enforcement.”
Albright said he is concerned that the city will not be able to provide the proper training they could have.
“Yes, they are going to get training; yes, it will be adequate, yes it will meet standards,” he said. “But is it going to be enough with what we are seeing happening in the world today? And as we see crime increase and more officers targeted, is that enough?”
Councilman Kevin Rourke said that while he wants to see a gun range for officers, it isn’t fiscally possible at this time.
“I haven’t given up on it,” Rourke said. “I think it is something we did hear at that town hall.”
Rourke said he would like to know if drug forfeiture funds can be used to pay for part of a new gun range. He said if a new Downriver Area Narcotics officer is added, more drug forfeiture money will become available in the future.
Councilman Angelo DiGiulio said he heard there was $458,000 available in the drug forfeiture fund, and he also heard that it would cost $1 million to $1.2 million to create a six-lane range at the Oakwood property.
“Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have it, but it’s a million dollars or more to do it,” DiGiulio said.
McLeod said it would be nice to have a gun range, and she acknowledged the need for training and getting new officers.
“We also have to talk about some realities,” McLeod said. “And the realities are how much money we have to spend, and what can we spend it on.”
McLeod said the council did not want to be like the other council, before the Receivership Transition Advisory Board became an aspect of all decisions.
“We are so concerned about doing it right and doing it within the budget,” she said, “and not keep pouring money down the drain here with a police facility with no jail that’s costing us money. It cannot go on endlessly. We have to look at it in increments. I think if we get creative, somewhere down the line we can get a gun range.”
Councilman Larry Templin reiterated that the council has to be fiscally responsible and answer to the RTAB.
“I appreciate what everyone is saying,” Templin said. “I’m a former police officer. Shooting and training is a top priority.”
Templin said the council will find a way to come up with money for any training officers request.
“If they need training, we’ll come up with the money, we’ll come up with the overtime,” Templin said. “We’ll make sure they get trained properly. And hopefully in the very near future we’ll be able to afford a gun range.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at email@example.com.)