DOCJT: Firing Range Condition Causing Training Delays

The firearms range at Kentucky’s Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) Center is in danger of “catastrophic failure.” Wednesday, DOCJT Commissioner Nick Jilek testified to the Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice and Judiciary about what he said are critical problems at the vital training site. Jilek reported that the problems add to delays in getting new officers trained because they limit capacity and times of use.

“It was literally so bad that, when I went to touch the wall where the paint looked like it was peeling, concrete would crumble at my fingertips,” Jilek said. “We had an architectural firm do a structural analysis, and the result of that was pretty stark.”

The architectural report warned that the McKinney Range wall could fail and the roof collapse if DOCJT did nothing to remedy the problem.

Workers installed support beams, which Jilek said serve “like a band-aid,” but they are not cost-effective or long-term fixes. Subcommittee Cochair Senator Danny Carroll (R-Paducah) responded, “I’m surprised the building has not been condemned.”

The testimony comes as DOCJT trainers try to catch up from backlogs created during the pandemic shutdown. They recently began five simultaneous classes. “There’s no way we would be able to run five classes if this range gets shut down,” said Training Division Director Frank Kubala.

The building’s condition limits how many lanes trainees can use, which delays training and how long it takes for cities to get new officers on the streets. Currently, the range contains 16 lanes, which Jilek said meets only half of trainers’ needs.

DOCJT estimated a new firing range would cost at least $23 million and would not only replace the crumbling structure but position the center for future training needs. The proposed facility would incorporate other forms of training to better prepare officers for realities faced on the job.

The General Assembly did not allocate the money during the 2021 session. When asked whether recent increases in building supply costs would increase projected costs, Kubala said that new project estimates total more than $28 million.

More than 430 law enforcement agencies in Kentucky rely on DOCJT and train at the McKinney Range.

The Kentucky League of Cities Board of Directors voted last month to work with DOCJT and legislators to seek a process to remove delays in the training of new law enforcement officers. Required training is currently delayed for months because of class shortages, forcing cities to pay new recruits until DOCJT can get them into a class.