|Abandon Old Firing
June 30, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Monday, June 30, 1997
The firing range in the Richmond Annex used by several East Bay police departments should be closed. If anything takes precedence in a city, it's the safety and well-being of residents. A well trained and prepared police force is an essential part of the picture. But the range itself, at least the way it's been operated, makes neighbors ill at ease.
After visiting the site, Councilman Tom Butt said, "I was appalled. The gates were open, there was no security. A kid could get in there and climb over the berm at any time." An earthen berm is the backdrop toward which the shots are fired.
Why it has taken the Richmond City Council so long to instruct City Manager Floyd Johnson to take steps to shut down the facility is puzzling. Whatever got them moving, it's time to make other arrange for the police.
The range, on land owned by Union Pacific Railroad Co., has been used by police for at least 25 years. Law enforcement agencies using the range include BART, El Cerrito, Pinole and San Pablo. Richmond police have used the Annex range periodically, but moved last year because of complaints. They now use a range on Chevron property at Point Molate. Albany police moved gun training to the Richmond Rod and Gun Club near the city dump two years ago.
These moves show there are alternatives, although they may temporally upset training schedules and routines.
Firearms training is important, both for recruits coming on the force as well as for veterans. Fortunately, police officers don't often need to fire their weapons; it's the exceptions that make the news. But in crisis situations, they need to be prepared with hands-on experience.
Although in recent years police have agreed to shoot only non-automatic weapons and only during the day, residents in the Richmond Annex and nearby neighborhoods say the noise keeps them awake and scares children and visitors.
This nerve-jangling nuisance has gone on too long. Get rid of it.