Law enforcement agencies across the state are hoping a renovated, one-of-a-kind facility will allow them to train together and prepare for natural disasters, active shooter situations and other mass casualty events.
The multi-jurisdictional training project, estimated to cost about $46 million, is expected to be used by public and private entities across the state and eventually the nation, said Metropolitan Police Department officer Andrew Locher, who is overseeing the project.
While officials said the project was not initiated because of the Oct. 1 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, the massacre solidified the need for such a facility, Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said at a Thursday press conference.
“The events of 1 October and other mass casualty events around the world have been and should be a wake up call for emergency responders everywhere,” McMahill said. “We must constantly strive to be a step ahead of those who wish to do harm in our communities.”
Now more than ever, law enforcement agencies need to train together, McMahill said.
Metro and the North Las Vegas Police Department are spearheading the project, which will be called the Nevada Joint Training Facility.
Agencies expected to train at the facility include Metro, North Las Vegas police, Henderson Police Department, Nevada Highway Patrol, the Gaming Control Board and the FBI, McMahill said. “So that when evil visits again, we’re better prepared to deal with any of that type of incident that comes to our valley,” he said.
The project, already under construction at the John T. Moran Firearms Facility site at 7600 E. Carey Ave., will be funded largely by private donations, McMahill said.
Officials expect the project to be built in phases as funding becomes available, he said, and the recent renovation of a shooting range marked the first step in the process.
McMahill said the project started eight or nine years ago but never got off the ground. North Las Vegas Police Chief Alexander Perez said the project took off after he and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo held a meeting about a year ago.
The project could prove valuable for the valley’s law enforcement agencies, which already cooperate in other facets of their jobs, he said.
“We do not operate in silos,” Perez said.
Initially built in 1984, the shooting facility consisted of three ranges but has since expanded to 12, accommodating more students and law enforcement agencies at the state, local and federal level, police said.
Metro’s existing firing range spans 6,370 acres, according to plans provided by the department’s public information office. Once completed, the compound would cover an additional 273 acres provided through a merger with the North Las Vegas police firing range and the transferring of public lands, the plans indicate.
Metro, North Las Vegas police, the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the FBI funded the latest range expansion as part of the first phase of the training facility’s construction.
Future phases of the project will be largely funded through private donations, but Metro spokesman Jay Rivera noted a small portion of the project may come through public funding.
The project’s first phase will consist of a range house, classrooms, offices and training spaces for defense tactics and reality-based training. It also includes indoor and outdoor training grounds designed to simulate responses to a neighborhood, commercial areas, parks and even a casino. Locher estimated its cost could reach $20 million.
Phase two will include an indoor firing range complex, new rifle ranges, additional classrooms and an auditorium. The third phase will create a track for emergency vehicles to train and an academy building.
MGM Resorts International has donated money to the project, but it wasn’t immediately clear how much. An MGM spokesman reached Thursday night did not immediately return comment.
Other casinos are expected to provide funding in the future, Locher said.
Learning, training together
Metro already works with other jurisdictions through its fusion center and trains its SWAT officers with valley agencies. The Oct. 1 shooting demonstrates a need for improved communication among responders and agencies, McMahill said.
Training together facilitates better communication because participants can watch how other agencies do their jobs, he added.
The completed facility will present an opportunity to become “a sort of crown jewel of the West,” where people from across the country can come to train their emergency responders, McMahill said.
Locher said private entities such as security firms will train officers at the facility, too. The definition of “first responder” is expanding to include officers with private security firms, he said, and it’s important for them to be on the same page as law enforcement agencies.
After visiting other law enforcement agencies across the country to examine their training grounds and methods, he said, one shortcoming was evident.
“I’ll tell you straight up; we have the best training out there,” Locher said. “We just don’t have the best facilities.”