The Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office is looking to build a new, more modern training facility in an effort to better prepare officers for modern-day police work. County staff and GCSO officials identified a piece of land near the airport, but some members of council say they are against the location.
In March, John Long, officer in charge of professional standards for GCSO, appeared before council along with Capt. Dale Kittles and Lt. Sean Williams who head up training at GCSO and identified a piece of property near the Greenwood County Airport that would be suitable for the new training facility. The piece of property is directly across the road from the City of Greenwood’s firing range on Old Laurens Highway.
Currently, GCSO uses the city firing range to train. It is a flat range with limited capabilities for advanced training, according to Kittles.
“We are very grateful that the city lets us use this facility to train,” Kittles said. “The problem is that it’s a flat range and we can’t really put the officers under stress during training. Just like a pilot has to train to fly and land a plane in various conditions, officers have to train for different scenarios they may face on the job. We’re very limited in what we can do here.”
During the meeting in March, Long asked council to consider giving a 10-acre tract of land near the airport to GCSO to use for the training facility. The land is part of a 100-acre tract of land that is currently part of the master plan for the airport. That plan is filed with the Federal Aviation Administration and the federal agency would have to give permission to remove the land from the master plan. Special projects manager Rossie Corwon told council that FAA officials were leaning toward allowing the land to be removed from the master plan, though no final answer had been given.
Kittles presented a plan for the 10-acre training facility to council. Kittles believes the new facility is essential to GCSO maintaining a high level of confidence in officers when they are faced with life-and-death situations.
“We’re the largest law enforcement agency in the area and we don’t have a place to train our officers,” Kittles said. “There seems to be a misconception that we can train at the (S.C. Criminal Justice) Academy any time we want to, but that’s not true. We’re one of well over 200 law enforcement agencies in the state. We can’t just sign up for a time and head down there.”
Kittles said, logistically, relying on the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy to train was not feasible. Officers participate in four live-fire training sessions each year: a day shoot, a night shoot and two tactical shoots. On Wednesday and Thursday, every officer at GCSO will roll through one of the tactical training shoots, which lasts a half-day. To hold that training in Columbia would turn it into an all-day training with travel time and would mean officers would either take a county vehicle to Columbia or be reimbursed for mileage to drive a personal vehicle down.
Councilman Bob Fisher was adamant during Tuesday’s administration and finance committee meeting that he did not support a training facility near the airport.
“I, for one, don’t like that spot,” Fisher said. “I have several reasons I do not like that spot. One is that if you put a shooting range out there, even it is only on five or 10 acres, it will prevent development of anything around it. Another is that I have heard from a few people in Creekside and they don’t like the idea of it.”
Long said he was recently made aware of another potential location on Siloam Church Road for the facility on a piece of land owned by Greenwood Metropolitan District. Long said he has not had the opportunity to look further into that possibility.
While the current facility is an adequate flat range, Kittles said, it is “1950s-style police training.” Williams agreed.
“This is not ideal for the type of training we need to do,” Williams said. “We make the most out of what money we have and what facilities we have. We are very appreciative of being able to use this facility, but we really need something that allows us to more scenario-based training so our officers are confident when they are out there on the street.”