THOMASVILLE — A Thomasville public safety training center for local, state and federal law enforcement would be ideal, says Thomas County Sheriff's Office chief investigator.
The public shooting range has displaced the sheriff's office shooting and training facility.
Sheriff's officers have used the Thomasville Police Department range for mandatory firearms qualifying and requalifying, but it is not always available because of mandated police training, said Lt. David Godwin, sheriff's office training coordinator.
When necessary, sheriff's officers have used Colquitt County's range for mandatory training and annual firearms requalifying.
"We do a minimum of twice a year,"Godwin said, in reference to firearms qualifying for officers.
Other training involves scenarios with make-believe bad guys and split-second decisions about whether to shoot or not to shoot the imaginary criminals. In other training scenarios, officers shoot at targets while officers move or while targets move.
"We are training as much as possible when it can be done in Moultrie," Godwin said.
He said county commissioners instructed him to develop a plan.
Thomas County Commissioner Wiley Grady said city officials have talked about developing a training facility with the county.
For 2021, the sheriff's office has budgeted $100,000 derived from drug squad seizures. County commissioners have budgeted the same amount next year for a training facility.
Grady said county public works would be instrumental in construction of a training facility.
"It will be strictly for law enforcement, no public use at all," he said.
The commissioner envisions the facility being established on county-owned property off County Fram Road near the landfill.
Thomasville City Council member David Hufstetler said a joint facility is "an excellent idea."
Hufstetler said that if the city has not budgeted money in 2021 for the project, "we'll find it."
"This is one of those times when a joint effort makes all the sense in the world," he said.
The mayor pro tem eagerly anticipates more renewed joint efforts with county government, mentioning a city-county SWAT team and drug squad.
Hufstetler, a businessman and former law enforcement officer, expects talks to begin in early 2021.
"Also, we have plans to renew joint meetings of city council and commissioners on at least a quarterly basis to pursue other common interests like this proposed firing range/training facility," Hufstetler said.
Godwin said a training facility could be used not only by city and county law enforcement agencies, but by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol and the U.S. Marshals Service.
The GBI and GSP have regional offices in Thomasville. The U.S. Marshals Service has an office in Tallahassee, Florida.
Watkins, the sheriff's office chief investigator, said more in-depth training is needed because of the proliferation of firearms in today's society.
Training is not confined to law enforcement, he said.
Vehicle training for emergency medical personnel is not mandated yet, Watkins said, but it expected — another training aspect a training facility could provide.
Planning for the future is crucial in a training facility, he said.
"You don't know what is going to be mandated down the road, not just for today, but 20 years in the future," Watkins added.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820