In December, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) announced the completion of a four-year, $500,000 effort to improve and expand their “Firearms Training Facility” in Hopewell Township.
This “state-of-the-art” training center is used by various Mercer County police agencies, as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies, according to a press release form the MCPO.
“Law enforcement agencies today are faced with the need to meet unprecedented physical, moral and legal challenges when training officers who are required to deploy their firearms in the line of duty,” said Acting County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri. “Firearms training for law enforcement demands more than mastering the fundamentals of marksmanship. It is a continuous process that begins in the police academy and continues throughout one’s career.”
The expansion was funded by “general county budget funds and forfeiture funds from the prosecutor’s office,” according to the release.
According to the press release, the highlights of the improvements and upgrades include:
- Exterior lights installed for night shooting: A large number of police-involved shootings occur in low light, ambient light or no light. Stadium lighting was added to supplement low-light training.
- A training center with lockers, a classroom that seats 40 people, and offices for visiting instructors was built. The classroom is equipped with a “smart” television for interactive training where officers can complete instruction on topics like motor vehicle pursuit and use of force.
- Laser shot room: Laser shot is an interactive training system that simulates reallife scenarios and aides officers in judgmental use of force, also known as decisionmaking shooting. This system enables progressive training from realistic engagements to better prepare law enforcement for encounters where the use of deadly force may be used.
- Ballistic wall: The number of shooting lanes was expanded from 12 to 24. The site was separated into two distinct, 12-lane ranges that allows for multiple agencies to utilize the facility as well as the availability for an agency to run different training scenarios simultaneously. The right side of the range has automated or manually operated turning targets that turn toward and away from the shooter. This allows for targets to be exposed for specific time intervals, which are designed to build on judgmental shooting, shooting at moving targets and engaging multiple targets at one time. Turning targets also strictly hold officers to a time standard during training.
- An observation tower was constructed to enhance the instructor’s view during exercises because of the hazards inherent in firearms training. Law enforcement firearms training has evolved from shooting at static targets to a program that focuses on realistic live-fire training scenarios. Officers are now required to shoot on the move while engaging multiple moving targets, often during low-light conditions.
- Live-fire shoot house. The shoot house is constructed of steel, which allows officers to use live ammunition. Additionally, steel bullet trap target holders were also constructed that can be moved within the structure. Doors were added leading into the various rooms so that officers can train in techniques to enter rooms that have open and closed doors. Shoot house training includes both live-fire indoor training combined with simulation training systems, such as Simunitions, a paint marker-type bullet that allows officers to train with an armed adversary. The shoot house offers interactive judgmental and use-of-force training for law enforcement because officers today cannot simply rely on fixed firing lines and paper targets to deal with active shooter threats, ambush-style attacks and lone wolf-style terrorist attacks.