Griswold gun range perfect for trooper training

There are names and dates that resonate in the minds of every Connecticut State Police trooper. One of those names is Trooper Russell Bagshaw, and the date was June 5, 1991. Trooper Bagshaw was killed at the age of 28 in an ambush-style attack in North Windham by two men burglarizing a gun shop in the darkness.

Another name and date is, Edward Premo, who in 1998 shot three state troopers outside his home in Willington. Last December, a Mansfield man opened fire on state troopers when they responded to a domestic disturbance call.

Being prepared for deadly force encounters is part of a career in law enforcement regardless of where you police. That’s why, after years of fits and starts, I’m pleased to see work finally progressing on our new State Police Training Center in Griswold. The 30-acre training center will be located inside about 113 acres of vacant farmland, which is surrounded on three sides by state forestland.

It’s a perfect site for your state troopers, especially compared to the Simsbury site the State Police have been using since the mid-1900s. That facility – built before building codes and floodplain standards – sits (literally) across the street from the Farmington River. It flooded in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. The 2011 flood – courtesy of Hurricane Irene – brought water levels above the height of the first-floor garage doors. We lost $28,000 in ammunition and another $220,000 in computerized target controls and firearms simulators.

If you were a private-sector business person engaged in construction, manufacturing, financial services, or some other industry, and you lost all of your equipment and supplies year after year, you’d find a new place to set up shop. The Connecticut State Police are doing the same.

Why eastern Connecticut? We looked at a variety of sites all across the state, from the Groton submarine base to National Guard facilities in East Haven and Niantic, public gun ranges, Department of Correction facilities – even privately owned shooting ranges. None of them equally matched the specific and necessary qualifications that Griswold site offers with regard to available land, level topography, lack of wetlands, potential for noise abatement, population density, vehicle accessibility, and available utilities.

The training center will be used Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., by State Police only.

However there’s another, equally important reason why eastern Connecticut is an ideal location for this State Police Training Facility: the residents of eastern Connecticut count on resident state troopers more than any other district of the state. Connecticut State Police Troops C, D, E and K cover the eastern third of the state, from Somers down to East Haddam, over to East Lyme and Stonington, up to Sterling and Thompson. That’s 51 towns with half a million people spread out over 1,750 square miles accessed by 3,300 miles of secondary roadway – 60 percent of the entire secondary roadway in the state. In Connecticut, an average of one out of every eight residents is covered by a state trooper; in eastern Connecticut, it’s one out of every two. In 2012, half of all the domestic violence calls answered by State Police (496 out of 1,001) were in eastern Connecticut. We always try to minimize response times whenever possible.

When you call a state trooper, it’s never a good day. So when they arrive, you should expect a courteous and professional response. That courtesy and professionalism comes from training. Whether it’s the State Police Aviation Unit, the Bomb Squad, the Dive Team, a K-9 officer, the Tactical Team, or our Mass Transit explosive detection unit, we will be trained and ready to respond. That’s our duty, and we owe that to you – especially in a society where active shooters at schools, businesses, government buildings, outdoor concerts, or in your own home have become all too common (there were 50 active shooter incidents in 2016 and 2017 that killed or injured 943 people, according to the FBI).

The new State Police Training Center in Griswold is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s a necessity because our current training facility is outdated and ruined, and because the residents of Connecticut – especially eastern Connecticut – deserve our protection.

That protection comes at a cost, whether it be a new training facility or a state trooper killed or wounded in the line of duty. All I ask is that Connecticut state troopers be allowed to train and to do their jobs with the degree of proficiency and professionalism necessary.

The new Griswold facility will allow us to do just that − be safe! 

John Castiline is the president of the Connecticut State Police Union.

 

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