Tri-City officers learn practical shooting skills

Learning to accurately fire a gun at a set target is a basic skill any cop needs before hitting the streets.

But learning to quickly fire a gun while maneuvering around obstacles provides a more real-world training that is essential to the safety of officers and citizens, Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb said.

This week, 11 officers from five agencies spent 55 hours — several of them in triple digit heat — learning those practical shooting skills.

“There’s nothing better for real training,” said Benton County sheriff’s Deputy Scott Hutson. “It’s more than what I expected by far.”

The six-day training, sponsored by the sheriff’s office and Richland police, was geared to officers who are firearms instructors at their agencies.After completing the course, they’re able to go back to their respective departments and provide the same training to other officers.

Officers from the Richland and Pasco police departments, Benton County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. marshals and state Department of Corrections participated.

“It’s important to have real-life scenarios because when you deal with lethal force encounters, they are not neat or sterile … They have real life obstacles to overcome,” Cobb said. “… It makes a difference between an officer going home or not.”

The training is done by Practical Edge Shooting, a Kennewick company founded by David Blosser, an officer with 15 years experience, including a dozen on a SWAT team.

The company’s instructors have a combined 50 years experience with police SWAT teams or Army Special Forces.

“Traditional training has been based on the premise that if you increase your speed, you decrease your accuracy,” said Bill Blosser, a training coordinator and retired officer.

What students learn with practical shooting is how to use their left thumb (if they’re right-handed) to help get a quick, accurate sight on their target, which helps increase speed and increase accuracy, Blosser said.

On Thursday, the officers went through three different courses where they had to shoot targets while standing still and while moving through the course. An old school bus was used in one of the courses, and officers had to nearly kneel to shoot through a tire in another.

“It’s the same type of stuff if you’re on the street,” Pasco police Officer Bill Wright said after completing one course. “It’s an adrenaline rush. You don’t even know you’re training.”

Some targets were partially blacked out, leaving only a small section for the officers to aim at as they were shooting.

“It lets them see what issues are like in the real world,” Blosser said. “In the real world, you may have a guy standing behind a tree that you cannot penetrate” so that leaves them just a small target to shoot at.

In a high-stress situation, an officer’s accuracy might only be 25 percent, meaning 75 percent of the shots don’t hit the target, Blosser noted.The goal of learning practical shooting is to make officers efficient and get all the rounds on target.

“It’s for the safety of officers and safety of civilians around them,” he said.

Having the students learn to shoot while moving also provides the same simulation of the targets moving while they shoot.

Besides increasing their speed and accuracy while shooting, the students learned how to stage and design a shooting course and how to effectively share their knowledge with coworkers.

Today, the officers will put the skills they’ve acquired over the past week to the test when they become the teachers and take a class through the course.

“It’s a lot different than what Hollywood presents,” Cobb said. “Hollywood does a good job of entertaining. Our troops do a really good job of policing.”