ON THE BEAT: Reedley Police Academy hits the range

Members of the Reedley Police Department’s Community Member’s Academy get their guns on at the shooting range

Members of the Reedley Police Department’s Community Member’s Academy taking their shots at the shooting range to experience what it feels like to fire police-issued weapons. (Darren Fraser)
Darren Fraser
Published June 21, 2024  • 
10:30 am

REEDLEY – For week eight of the Reedley Police Department Community Member’s Academy, the instruction moved out of the classroom and onto the department shooting range in Sanger as Academy members experienced what it feels and sounds like to fire police-issued weapons.

Chief Jose Garza, Commander Marc Ediger, Sergeant Steve Puryear, and Officers Michael Velasquez and Daniel Renteria walked members through the safety protocols and the do’s and don’ts when on the range.

“Anything that goes bang can cause serious damage and/or death,” Garza reminded the members.

Members fired .22 caliber and 9 millimeter handguns, a .22 caliber rifle, assault rifles and a shotgun into cardboard cutouts that vaguely resembled the head and torso of a human. The cutouts were placed in front of a dirt berm. Puffs of dirt exploded on the berm with each shot.

The assault rifles are sophisticated and complicated weapons. Despite their craftsmanship, they occasionally jam, as one did during the outing. Garza used the occasion to remind the members why his officers undergo rigorous and continual training.

“We call that transitioning,” said Garza, describing what an officer must do when equipment malfunctions. “An officer is firing an assault rifle. It jams. Without thinking, using muscle memory, and without losing time, the officer must transition from the rifle to a handgun.”

He continued, “Imagine if the officer is wounded in the right or left shoulder. They must transition to the opposite hand. Imagine if they can’t use an arm and must rack or reload a weapon. These are the things we train for.”

Ediger mentioned that Reedley Police train at the range every eight weeks, up to 10 hours a day.

THUNDEROUS

When explaining how to fire a shotgun, Velasquez described the kick.

“It’s not like the movies,” he said. “You won’t be thrown backward.” But there is a kick. And there is sound. For anyone who has not spent time on a shooting range or has never fired a weapon, the sound – particularly the explosions from the shotgun and assault rifles – is startling. As is the vibration these weapons create, which can be felt 20 or 25 feet distant from the shooter.

Over two and a half hours, each Academy member fired each weapon multiple times. The learning curve was impressive. Results from the first round of shooting were, as was expected, unimpressive. But with each successive round, members honed their skills. And with each round, a genteel camaraderie developed.

“Let me see (the cutout). How’d you do?”

“I aimed for the head this time.”

“Oh, hell yeah.”

Even one member who required assistance to get into firing position was able to get off what surely would be lethal rounds had they entered a real “perp.”

Ediger said that during his career, he never engaged in a gun battle. When asked how officers control the adrenaline rush, he answered, “Training.”

But how can they control a primitive response, such as adrenaline?

To answer that question, Ediger explained a situation that occurred last summer, when a Reedley police officer killed a suspect who went on a crime spree. The shooter had a lengthy criminal record and had been released from prison the day before the shootings.

“The officer brought him down with a single shot,” said Ediger. “Training and muscle memory.”

Next week, Academy members are learning about the department’s K-9 and about the invaluable work of police dispatchers.

Darren Fraser
Reporter