Shooting for safety
Upgrades coming for Bayonne shooting range
by Rory Pasquariello
Reporter staff writer
Oct 11, 2017 | 1565 views | 0 0 comments | 104 104 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bayonne is planning to re-open its indoor shooting range, the Sgt James J. Shea Memorial Pistol Range, after shutting its doors in 2016 due to a civilian complaint of lead poisoning. Even though the NJ Department of Healthfound no evidence that the civilian’s poisoning occurred at the gun range, the 50-year-old facility was overdue for renovations, which are expected to be completed in early 2018. The range is near 16th Street Park on Bayonne’s west side.

The upgrades take place against the backdrop of recent gun violence in Las Vegas. Though the range had been open to the public, it may not be once the renovations are complete, according o Bayonne Police Chief Drew Sisk. The city may consider public safety, cost of upkeep, and insurance, though the reason is unclear.

Plans include a new state-of-the-art heating and ventilation system, an integral piece that extracts lead dust from the air, and possibly a new roof. The range has been open to the public in the past, but city officials are considering reserving the range for official use only. The indoor facility allows practice with smaller weapons, such asnine-millimeter, 38-caliber, and 45-caliber pistols, in addition to some shotguns and submachine guns.

The Bayonne City Council approved a $500,000 bond request in May to fund the renovations, and issued a request for proposals at the September meeting. A more precise time frame for the project will be determined once bids have been approved and a work schedule has been established.

“It was time for upgrades,”Sisk said. “We kept [the range] together but now is as good of an opportunity as ever.”

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“It was time for upgrades. We kept it together but now is as good of an opportunity as ever.” – Bayonne Police Chief Drew Sisk

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Where there’s smoke…

That puff of smoke coming out of the barrel of revolvers in spaghetti westerns, or from muskets in the Revolutionary War may add dramatic effect in film, but in real life that smoke is poisonous.

“That’s why we create a negative pressure zone,” said Bayonne Police Captain Matt McGillis. “To keep that harmful particulate matter filtered and contained away from the common space.” McGillis is the police department’s shooting range specialist. He is a former Master Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy who worked with the military designing shooting ranges for soldiers.

“The last thing we want is for our officers to inhale that,” he said, referring to the lead and chemicals that are present in gunfire residue.

The BPD and city engineers are coming up with a plan to make the range safer by keeping the lead particles that are inherent in gun and bullet design out of people’s lungs.For instance, a kind of sticky paper will be installed on the floors to catch any harmful lead particles on the bottom of shoes. The number of shooting ports will be reduced from eight to six, new backdrops will be added to help catch the bullets, and the walls will be re-sealed.

“I’m happy we got the ball rolling on this,” said Chief Sisk. “It’s no small expense, but well worth it so that our officers have the appropriate training.”

Police officers are required to undergo firearm training semi-annually. Since the range closed, Bayonne officers have been using Jersey City’s outdoor range, which has targets at about a 50-yard range as opposed to Bayonne’s 40-yard indoor range. That comes in handy for practicing with more high-powered weapons, but for handguns and shotguns, a range closer to home will be much more convenient.

Other upgrades

Police departments are constantly upgrading and changing, and Bayonne is no different. The upgrades to the shooting range are only one of many the department is undergoing.

The department will adopt a new body camera policy in early 2018, outfitting all patrolling officers with body cameras on the chest to record interactions with the public.

Earlier this month, the communication system hardware and software was replaced with a new system made by Motorola. The new radio system enables more effective and clear communication with patrolling officers.

The department’s computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) and records-keeping software will be updated with software from ProPhoenix by the end of the year. The system in place was installed in 1989 and the vendor, CISCO, can no longer maintain the product due to required parts and equipment no longer being manufactured or available. This project will be complete by the end of the year.

Also by the end of the year, the BPD expects to be accredited by the New Jersey State Chiefs of Police Association, which ensures compliance with standards and ultimately awards the accreditation. The department has hired an outside consultant to ensure the department meets the standards required for accreditation.

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com.

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