BLUEFIELD, Va. — Click here for video
Gunshots rang midst the mountains Friday as ejected shotgun shells and brass hit the ground. Officers from three of Tazewell County’s law enforcement agencies fired at targets during the first Law Enforcement Skills Competition.
Members of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, Richlands Police Department and Pocahontas State Correctional Center watched as officers took turns firing a pistol, AR-15 and shotgun in rapid succession. This first contest, called full throttle, employs all three of the firearms officers use regularly, said Major Harold Heatley of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is a test of skill and accuracy,” he said. In each contest, officers demonstrated their speed and proficiency with the firearms they use daily in the line of duty.
“It’s just for fun,” Heatley said of the competition. “I think at some point, a traveling trophy will be awarded. This is our first one, and this is sponsored by the Triangle Sportsmen’s Club and the sheriff’s office.”
Full throttle soon ended, and the competitors moved on to the neighboring range for their next trial by fire. Kevin Hardy of the Triangle Sportsmen’s Club asked for a table to stand in as a car.
“It’s supposed to be a car, but I’m not going to ask anybody to use their car,” he said as officers prepared their weapons for the next round. He pointed out the round metal targets lined up along the range’s perimeter and others waiting at the end of the range; a hit counted only if the metal plate was knocked down.
“This is all steel shoot,” Hardy said. “They’ll run through here with their shotgun and their handgun. The NRA created it to let them fire in a real world scenario with their duty equipment. Here they fire a lot more than hopefully they would have to in the real world.”
Chief Frank Dorton of the Richlands Police Department said local agencies hope the competition will become an annual event. It was organized as part of Police Memorial Week.
“It’s the camaraderie with other departments, department verses department in friendly competition,” Dorton said of the contest’s benefits for officers. “Plus it’s experience for them, stressful firearms training that lets them sharpen their firearms skills.”
The departments often work together, so meeting at the Triangle ranges for a contest helps with their overall training, said Capt. Richard Bishop of the Pocahontas State Correctional Center.
“It’s good PR (public relations) for the department of corrections,” he stated. “We like to shoot as much as we can.” Other local agencies often use the Pocahontas center’s range for practice sessions. Teams from the correctional center could find themselves working with other agencies during incidents such as an escape, so practicing together helps them prepare for joint operations.
Winners of the first annual competition were determined by a matter of seconds. The Pocahontas State Correctional Center team won by a 15 second margin, Heatley said. The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office had second place, and the Richlands Police Department was third.
Sgt. Kevin Hale of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office was ruled the top shooter of the day, Heatley said. The competition also raised $200 for the Hunting for Heroes project.