ST. GEORGE – The City Council visited the St. George Police Department training range Thursday and were treated to a demonstration of police equipment and training. Council members were able to see how various equipment and techniques are used by the city’s police officers in their work.
The Police Department’s shooting and training range — located near the intersection of Red Hills Parkway and Bluff Street yet largely hidden from public view — played host to members of the City Council as they witnessed firsthand how police train and use the equipment and facilities the city has invested in over the years.
“It’s great to have the City Council come to the pistol range today,” St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton said, “(and) for them to be able to see what we do and all the of the equipment that they’ve supported us in purchasing to make sure we’re prepared for whatever might come our way and also to keep our officers safe.”
The first demonstration city officials were given was from the St. George Police SWAT team. Before seeing the team in action as it raided a mock home setup simulating a hostage situation, the council was given a rundown of the equipment employed by the team.
The firearms and ammunition used by the SWAT officers were highlighted, as were nonlethal systems like pepper canisters and gas delivery systems – one of which included the use of a paintball guns. The officer presenting the items also showed council members a small battering ram used by the team that was jokingly referred to as “the key to the city.”
Following discussion, the demonstration of the SWAT team in action came next. City Council members and others congregated at the top of a tower overlooking the rough mock-up of a home, which includes a catwalk over the top that allows trainers to walk along as the team moves in and then give feedback on how the exercise unfolded. Officers are also able to use live ammunition during the exercise.
“We’re able to shoot live rounds down here and safely do it,” Police Capt. Scott Staley said. “So as a training facility, this is huge to us. … It’s just an incredible facility that allows us to train our team to the best of of our ability.”
Staley pointed out a watermelon that was set up at the far end of the mock-up and said a police sniper would shoot it, simulating a deadly shot taken during a hostage-taker. Once the shot was made, the SWAT team would blow open the door to the home and move in.
The bang that ushered the watermelon’s demise was quickly followed up by the sound of the door being blown open. The SWAT team then moved in shouting “Police, search warrant!” and “Police officer!” as they moved inside.
Shots were fired during the exercise, and one of the simulated suspects – a free standing upper torso-shaped target – was shot and “taken into custody.” The exercise lasted under 30 seconds.
Staley thanked St. George Mayor Jon Pike and the City Council for their support of the Police Department and supporting them in having a facility like the training range and purchasing the equipment needed to help keep the officers and public safe.
“I think we have a really good Police Department,” Pike said, “and we, of course, want to be sensitive to what their equipment and training needs are, so we really try and provide the best we can.”
For some members of the City Council, it was their first time visiting the range, Stratton said, adding that it had been a while since the council had been to the range to see all of the police force’s equipment and what their capacities are.
“So it’s great to have them up here and see firsthand what we have and what we’re able to do,” the police chief said.
Other demonstrations included presentations from the Police Department’s Mountain Bike Patrol, Motor Division (motorcycle cops) and K9 officers, as well as the firing range.
While at the range, Pike and Councilman Jimmie Hughes were allowed to use M4 carbine rifles and other firearms used by police.
The city’s support of the Police Department has been very beneficial, Stratton said, as it has largely signed off on the department’s equipment and training needs over the years.
“It’s critical that we understand those needs,” Pike said. “That was what really the purpose of the demonstration … it’s helpful to see how that all plays into things.”
The St. George Police Department, like other city departments, will be presenting budget requests to the City Council next month for the 2016-17 budget. The city’s preliminary budget sports a nearly $65 million general fund. An estimated $13 million of that is slated for the Police Department.
The city currently employees 108 full-time police officers.
The St. George City Council approved the city’s preliminary budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, with an overall budget of $195 million. The preliminary budget is featured online at the City of St. George website and can also be accessed here.
Public comment on the budget has been set for June 2 and 16, with adoption of the budget anticipated at the latter meeting following the public comment period.
In addition to the visit to the police shooting and training range, the City Council also visited the J.C. Snow Park at 900 South 400 East and the green houses the city maintains at Vernon Worthen Park.
The horseshoe pits previously located next to the Elks Baseball Fields were moved to make way for a new elementary school and have since been relocated to J.C. Snow Park. The original 24 horseshoe pits have been expanded to 30 at the new location.
At the green houses, city officials were able to see where the parks staff grow flowers and other flora from seeds to eventually be planted around the city. The green houses may eventually be moved to J.C. Snow Park as well, as the council considers renovating and updating Vernon Worthen Park with new facilities and expanded parking in the future.
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