Police stay sharp with practice on shooting range

Mickey Alvarado

Tecumseh, Clinton, Raisin and Cambridge Police Departments have officers practice shooting weapons at a four-station range behind the Tecumseh Public Works Department. The range is not open to the general public. Pictured is Tecumseh Police Officer Kelley Hissong. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

Times are difficult for those with careers in law enforcement but it’s business as usual for many of the nation’s police departments, including Tecumseh’s. 
“It is very concerning to see some of the things going on in our nation right now,” Tecumseh Police Chief Troy Stern said.
Despite tensions mounting nationally between police and the general public over civilian shootings, Stern said his department has received a lot of support locally after police-targeted shootings in the country. “This community has been wonderful to us, they really have,” he said. “They’ve stepped behind us and kind of boosted us up because law enforcement has been knocked down. Not to say that there aren’t issues that need to be addressed out there, because there certainly are, but our community has stepped up behind us. We’ve received notes. We’ve received flowers. We’ve received food. The support has been absolutely tremendous.”
Not much has changed during the turmoil for local law enforcement. Training is routine but may be taken much more seriously now by all personnel involved. If practice makes perfect, Tecumseh Police Department (TPD) officers are as sharp as tack when it comes to using their weapons. At least four times a year, Tecumseh police officers hit the shooting range to improve their skills at an outdoor range located behind the Department of Public Works at the end of Dave William’s Drive on the east side of Tecumseh. Stern asks his officers to go above and beyond state requirements when practicing for firearm qualifications. 
“We tend to be a little more aggressive with the amount of range time that we use,” he said. “Our department policy is four times a year. Other departments may not be as often.” 
Tecumseh’s officers qualify for weapons certification twice a year for the state. “Qualification is a standardized course where everybody within the department must meet the minimum standards in order to maintain their certification and be able to do the job,” said Stern. “With that state qualification is an in-service duty minimum standard we have to meet in order to be certified and qualified on weapons.”
TPD goes above and beyond that state minimum standard. “I require our officers to be a little more trained, so our standard is a little more aggressive than what the state standard is. So with that, we tend to shoot a few more rounds than what the state minimum is,” Stern explained.
Stern added that the rounds his officers shoot need to be hitting the target 95 percent of the time to meet his department’s accuracy standard.
“The state’s standard, I think, is eighty percent. We’re up to ninety-five percent,” said Stern. “We try to maintain a little higher standard.”
Tecumseh’s officers carry and practice with a Sig Sawyer P320 sidearm. In addition, officers also practice with 12-gauge shotguns and AR15 rifles. “The rifles are basically military surplus that we utilize. We’ve had them for probably twenty to twenty-five years. They are the M-sixteen version, we’ve paired down to the AR-fifteen so it is a semiautomatic civilian version, essentially.”
Tecumseh allows other police departments including the Village of Clinton and Raisin and Cambridge Townships, to utilize its shooting range.
“When we initially built that range, other departments kind of helped us in a cooperative cost-sharing effort so they also use the range as well,” said Stern. 
The range has been in the same place for at least 30 to 35 years, according to Stern. He said that several years ago the range location was moved south on the same property and increased to a four-person station with a concrete base, a high wooden backdrop, baffling and large panels that suppress ricochets.
His officers don’t just stand in front of the target and shoot. They also incorporate tactical maneuvers on the range that they may encounter in the field.
“It may be simulating an officer getting knocked to the ground and having to remove his weapon from his holster and shoot from the ground,” said Stern. “It’s more practical to what a real-life shooting might be.”
There are currently no plans to increase the size of the range or move it indoors. Stern said having it outdoors gives officers the same weather conditions they may encounter while on patrol. “There’s really not a lot that we can do to increase the size of it because we’re limited in the location that we are at. But the range serves our purposes very well,” he said.
“The thing about having to qualify on weapons is you have to be prepared to shoot in any type of circumstance, whether it be nighttime, winter time, ninety-five degrees, a rain storm or a hailstorm,” Stern said. “You have to be prepared to shoot in any type of condition and circumstance. Indoor ranges, while they have their use and value, we’re going to shoot in the elements that we may be involved in.”
Stern added that every four to five years, TPD’s officers get into an indoor practice range to simulate a variety of shooting situations.
In addition, Adrian’s Police Department and Washtenaw Community College each have a “MILO” system Tecumseh officers use that create scenarios on a movie screen. Officers use simulated weapons and are judged on their reactions and decision making in a variety of situations. Stern said that his officers also participate in countywide active shooter drills with other police departments in Lenawee County. 
Unlike some of the cities where civil uprisings have taken place, Tecumseh doesn’t have a lot of minorities. What it does have is a state road that brings a wide variety of people in and out, and it takes just one person of any race with the wrong intentions to put the public and officers at risk.
“We don’t have the diverse community that allows for some of the issues that are currently out there. Not to say it couldn’t happen to us tomorrow,” Stern said. 
“Education is the biggest thing, both from law enforcement and the community standpoint. I think that’s probably one of the biggest issues that we deal with right now,” Stern said. “I don’t know that the general public truly understands what law enforcement does... I think there needs to be an effort to educate the public more on exactly what it is that we do on a day-to-day basis.” 
He said TPD is looking at creating a video to share with the public that is made from clips taken off the cameras his officers wear while on duty. He thinks if the public sees what officers deal with on a daily basis they will get a much better understanding of the stresses involved during split second decisions they have to make.
“I’ve tasked one of my sergeants to go through some of our video, our in-car and body videos, to try and do somewhat of a compilation, like a day in the life or week in the life, of a police officer. Because while it is a very tight knit community that we don’t have a lot of major issues, I don’t think people understand truly, sometimes the things we deal with. I think it’s very important to get that out to people so they really do get an idea of what, even in Tecumseh, we deal with.”


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Tecumseh, MI 49286

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