MINNEOTA?- Law enforcement officers from Minneota, Walnut Grove, Tracy, the Upper Sioux Community and Lamberton came to the Southwest Sportsmen's Club in Minneota on Tuesday for yearly weapons qualification training, put on by Minnesota West Technical and Community College. Officers qualified with pistol, rifle and shotgun.
"It's required once a year, and we highly recommend they keep up training on their own," said Matthew Loeslie, law enforcement coordinator at MinnWest. "It's a highly perishable skill."
The course was taught by Loeslie and Cole Wieck a certified firearms instructor and chief of police in Madison. Minnesota West has qualification training for rural law enforcement officers to meet the standards set by the state Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) board. Many small-town rural police and sheriff's departments simply do not have the resources to support in-house training and send their personnel to MinnWest, Loeslie said.
Photo by Steve Browne
Police officers from various area departments participated in a weapons qualification taught by firearms instructor Cole Wieck at the Southwest Sportsmen’s Club in Minneota on Tuesday.
Training methods have changed a lot throughout the years, according to Loeslie. Law enforcement officers no longer train in the formalistic style of offhand sport pistol and rifle shooting. Nowadays officers are trained in a more dynamic way, approximating as closely as possible deadly force encounters, including: close-range shooting, moving and shooting, low-light shooting and inclement weather shooting.
Mike Zeug is chief of police in Walnut Grove and its only full-time officer.
"It's nice to do it in warmer temperatures," Zeug said. "Last year we did it on the coldest day of the year."
According to Loeslie, study of police fatalities drove innovations in training that MinnWest brings to small-town rural departments.
"Long ago they used to find officers dead with nice little piles of shell casings beside them because they trained on the range to pick up their brass and put their magazines in their pockets," Loeslie said. "I call those reflexes 'training scars.'"
Under extreme stress, officers tend to replicate unconscious habits they've developed in training. There is even a known case of an officer reflexively handing a gun back to someone he'd disarmed during an arrest, Loeslie said.
"The qualification course we've put together includes shooting, turning and shooting, and malfunction drills," Wieck said. "Something you'd encounter in the real world."
The basic course does not introduce a simulated high-pressure environment yet, and minimum qualifying scores are set by each department.
"The risk of qualifying or not is usually stress enough," Wieck said.