Westminster police last week opened a new facility expected to serve as a state-of-the-art center for agencies across Orange County to train and collaborate.
Nearly 20 local, county and state law enforcement agencies attended an open house Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Westminster Police Department Range and Safety Training Center — a 21,000-square foot space that includes a 10-lane gun range, a simunitions warehouse, a mat room, classroom and space for evidence storage.
Building the facility was first dreamed up when Westminster replaced its 26,000-square-foot 1960s-era department with a 91,000-square-foot police building, which opened in April 2011.
“This was always a part of that plan,” Westminster PD Cmdr. Timothy Vu said of the new facility. “The No. 1 reason we have this is to provide the best training for our officers.
“A facility like this provides the latest in tactical training and it helps our folks get better prepared for the challenges they face.”
Outside of the Orange County Sheriff Department’s training center, Westminster’s facility is the only place in Orange County to offer multiple types of training, Vu said.
“Before you’d generally have to go to one place to shoot, another location for defensive tactics and another place for scenario training,” he said. “It’s a cost savings in terms of being able to do all the training in one place and the flexibility is great, too.”
Although the facility is up and running, there is still more to come.
The simunitions room — a giant warehouse with high ceilings and adjustable lighting — is currently empty as Westminster police decide on how to best use the space.
Talk of constructing house-like structures for tactical training or erecting a catwalk so supervisors can get a birds-eye view of officers as they train may be possibilities for the room.
After the open house, members of the Westminster Police Department got right to training.
Detectives, officers and a sergeant worked on shoot/don’t shoot scenarios and were even able to practice how to respond to a vehicle ambush using a patrol car.
At this range, police vehicles can drive right on in to be used in the training.
“We’ve never been able to do that before,” said. Sgt. Darrick Vincent, as he watched an officer maneuver around the vehicle and shoot through an open window. “And the truth is, training on a vehicle ambush is something that is not that far-fetched.”
The eventual plan is to have several other Orange County agencies contracting to use the space and take advantage of this kind of training, Vu said.
“The beauty of it is … we will be able to share techniques, share our experiences and be better as a result of it,” he said. “If we ever have a situation like what happened in San Bernardino, it’s very likely that neighboring agencies will be coming in.
“Having your partner agencies trained at the same facility only helps to enhance that collaboration.”