MTC joins with the Bradenton Police Department to build a new shooting range and driving pad in Myakka City.
For the past four years, the Manatee Technical College Law Enforcement Academy has been searching for a property where it could construct a firing range and driving course to train recruits.
In the meantime, recruits have had to travel to Sarasota or St. Petersburg for training that costs thousands of dollars.
Now with the approval from the School Board of Manatee County and Bradenton City Council, the search for a property is over.
The Law Enforcement Academy is partnering with the Bradenton Police Department to construct a state-of-the-art facility that would include an outdoor firing range and driving pad on 35 acres of the police department’s property on Taylor Road in Myakka City.
“We’re excited about it because it’s been long overdue, and we’re excited to have a place where we can do real tactical law enforcement training,” said Jay Romine, the law enforcement program director at MTC.
Manatee Technical College used to have an indoor firing range and driving pad that was built in 1983 at its west campus on 34th Street West by the State College of Florida.
Seven years ago the indoor range was shut down for safety purposes.
“It was going to cost a lot of money to retrofit and repair that building,” Romine said. “It would have to be ADA compliant, it would have to have mold remediation and the rest of the campus had moved on and gone into our East Campus and the main campus on State Road 70. The only thing that was left on that campus was our firing range building and one other storage building.”
Once the firing range and driving pad was closed, MTC’s Law Enforcement Academy had to find other places to do firearms and driving training.
Manatee Technical College received a $2 million grant from the state to put toward the firing range and driving course. The School District of Manatee County will provide another $2 million.
Since the Bradenton Police Department already owned the land, the $4 million for the project could be put solely toward construction. Romine said the project could be complete in as early as 18 months.
The facility will include an outdoor firing range where officers will have the capability of doing handgun training, rifle training and more. The facility will have driving pads where intersections for simulations will be constructed. Lighting will be included so training can be done at night. The facility also will have a SWAT course.
Melanie Bevan, the chief of the Bradenton Police Department, said an outdoor gun range provides more practice scenarios than an indoor range because in an indoor range, officers are typically standing still in a lane rather than moving around.
“Oftentimes when officers are in these shooting situations, they’ve been running and jumping and their hearts are pounding,” Bevan said. “They’re not just standing there, they’re fighting. I know just from being in this profession for 34 years that a greater majority of shootings happen outside, and it’s not just standing there when it happens.”
Romine said at MTC, instructors put the students in situations and let them figure out what to do.
“We let them mess up basically so they learn how to do it the right way,” Romine said. “It’s exactly the same when we get into those high liability areas. We make the scenarios as realistic as we possibly can.”
There also will be classrooms for de-escalation training.
“When you start talking about firearms training, that goes hand in hand with de-escalation training,” Bevan said. “It’s not just get out there and shoot your gun and hit the target. We look at it now from a training perspective as a fluid situation. Firearms training always comes with verbal commands and attempting to defuse and explain what you’re doing.”
Once complete, the firing range and driving pad will not only benefit MTC but also all law enforcement agencies throughout Manatee County.
“We don’t have a regional gun range, and we’ve never had a driving pad,” Bevan said. “What kills cops out there is accidents and all the perils involved with driving. Even for basic training instruction, we’ve had to go up to St. Pete or down to Sarasota or over to Hillsborough. Honestly, because of the logistics to send my folks other places and the cost involved, we really don’t do it, and we should be doing it.”
The time actual officer spend training and teaching impacts the number of officers on the streets.
Bevan said having a training facility in Myakka City will mean officers have somewhere to train close by where the scenarios are controlled.
Bevan said the facility will be staffed full-time so agencies can send law enforcement officials for training at any time.
“I envision if I have an officer that’s been in a preventable accident, and he or she needs to go for some remedial training, which I require, currently we do it out on the streets,” Bevan said. “We find a parking lot and go through the turns and whatnot. Now I can just say, ‘Hey, go on down to the facility.’”
Bevan said the facility could build camaraderie among law enforcement agencies in Manatee County because the facility will only be open to regional law enforcement agencies and MTC’s Law Enforcement Academy, and officers of different agencies can use the facility at the same time.
The facility also will provide a training area for other aspects of MTC’s Law Enforcement Academy, which also offers advanced training, firearms instructor courses, equivalency training for out-of-state officers that are moving to Florida.