Since the Lubbock Police Training Facility reopened on October 17, officers must follow new rules and be retrained in order to use the facility. The facility, where the Lubbock Police firing range is housed, was closed for a week while the department investigated two incidents where officers may have negligently discharged firearms there.
The first of those incidents happened on September 28 when an officer discharged a weapon out the side of a patrol vehicle. The second happened on October 9 when an officer discharged a firearm in a classroom at the training facility. Both incidents involved cleaning the weapons in use.
“There was a need to pause and make sure that everyone is safe in a training environment,” explained Lubbock Police Chief Greg Stevens in an interview with EverythingLubbock.com.
Stevens said he takes possible incidents of negligent discharge seriously.
“We want to make sure the public has confidence in everything that we do, whether it’s in a training environment or out on the streets,” he said.
At a press conference on October 10 regarding the two incidents at the training facility, Stevens said, “I don’t want us to have any negligent discharges. They’re avoidable, they are 100% avoidable.”
He explained that the recent incidents have prompted new policies at the Lubbock Police firing range. EverythingLubbock.com visited the training facility to hear about the changes firsthand.
As of October 17, every officer in the department is required to go through safety retraining at the facility. Officers are not allowed to use the range or training facility until they have completed the refresher training.
The range has many safety rules in place already, but they’ve now added a new rule:
“That everyone will line up on the line together [at the range] and our instructor will come by and individually inspect each weapon to make sure it’s clear and there’s no ammunition in it,” explained Officer John Willhelm, Rangemaster for Lubbock Police.
He explained that the new rule is aimed to give officers and instructors more control over what happens at the firing line.
“Everybody has a liability for safety, whether it’s a range officer or each officer or myself, everybody on the range has that responsibility for safety and it pretty much goes back to ensuring that everyone goes back safely, whether that’s from a day on the range or at the end of their shift,” Willhelm said.
Willhelm explained that officers can use two types of ammunition: duty ammunition to be used in the field and practice ammunition to be used at the facility. With the reopening of the range, Willhelm said there will be added emphasis on making sure people at the range are loading their weapons with the right type of ammunition.
“That’s part of the things we’ve done during this retraining, is to re-insure both our instructors and our certified officers that we need to focus on those rules and then we need to come up with new procedures on loading and unloading,” Willhelm said.
Lubbock Police is still investigating the incidents at the range, their investigation will determine if any disciplinary action will be necessary.
Stevens explained that LPD leaders will also be looking at their own policies and practices to see if there are any changes the department can implement to make the training facility safer.
He explained that the department has tried to answer to these incidents, to show the public the department is holding itself accountable with fair and impartial investigations
“When you train with live ammunition and when you carry live ammunition on every call you go to, we need to make sure we can do everything we can do to mitigate those dangers,” Stevens said.
“We live sometimes at the very edge of chaos, we want to make sure we’re doing that as safely as can be,” he said.