When shots ring out in the Beaver Hills neighborhood of New Haven, residents cannot always tell whether they are hearing urban violence or valuable officer safety training.
The Firing Range Safety Committee met Thursday night to address growing discontent with the open-air New Haven Police Department firing range located along Beaver Hills Pond Park. Both community members and NHPD officers said they agree that the noise and environmental impact of the loud firing range need to be remedied. NHPD Lt. Richard Rohloff presented a proposal to replace it with a state-of-the-art insulated firing range on the same spot that would serve the south-central Connecticut region. But residents and aldermen still had questions about the proposed facility’s effectiveness and the necessity of locating it in Beaver Hills.
Committee chair Eric Hansen began the meeting by saying that the committee was looking for a solution to the neighbors’ complaints of noise and lead seepage while accommodating the NHPD’s training needs. Members of the committee had previously suggested moving the firing range or enclosing it.
Rohloff and several other NHPD officers presented a plan to build an entirely soundproof shooting range, which they said would eliminate the most grating problem for nearby residents. The computerized facility would also be equipped with a “snail” bullet trap, a contraption that captures and gathers bullets, preventing their lead from seeping into the environment, Rohloff said.
The new shooting range would also benefit the NHPD by improve the quality of necessary firearm training for officers, he said. An enclosed facility would allow the department to stagger training throughout the year and allow for more personal instruction.
“The vast majority of people entering the force … have never fired a gun before, [and] this will allow us to have smaller classes,” Rohloff said.
Currently, the NHPD meets the minimum state requirement for annual gun training, he said. But the new range would also have adjustable lights so that officers could fulfill their nighttime training requirement without causing the disturbance they do now. Rohloff said this capability, along with new simulation equipment, would give officers more practical and effective training.
Overall, he said, the project has an estimated cost of $6 million. Rob Smuts ’01, Mayor John DeStefano’s deputy chief of staff, said the city would seek both state and federal funding, though federal funding would not be possible this fiscal year.
But residents and aldermen from the surrounding area still expressed concerns about why the shooting range needs to remain in Beaver Hills, especially since the facility will be a regional range, servicing the 20 police departments of Connecticut’s South Central Criminal Justice Administration.
“We always open our door, [so] why can’t someone else do this?” Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards said. “We already have the fire [training facility so] why can’t someone else take the police?”
NHPD Assistant Chief Stephanie Redding said that since the NHPD is by far the largest department and has the greatest need for the shooting range, it makes the most sense for New Haven to host the facility. Having the other departments involved would help secure state funding, Rohloff said.
The next meeting concerning the shooting range will likely take place between mid March and early April, Ward 28 Alderman Mordechai Sandman said.