A proposal to build a shooting range in the town of Beloit has exposed an unusual rift among local law enforcement agencies. They typically tout their ability to coordinate and collaborate, but they disagree on the answer to a seemingly simple question: Does Rock County need another shooting range?
We don’t see the need because the town of Beloit is welcome to use the shooting range in Janesville—the La Prairie Pistol Range—which includes outdoor and indoor ranges along with a training classroom. The prices are reasonable, too, at $100 for a four-hour slot and $175 for an eight-hour slot.
And if that’s not enough (though it is), Blackhawk Technical College’s police academy has an indoor shooting range, also available for local law enforcement use.
Both the Janesville and Beloit police departments oppose the town’s proposal, and Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said he knew nothing of it until the town sent him a letter this month asking for his support. Moore doesn’t see the benefits, either for his officers or taxpayers.
The letter by Town Administrator Ian Haas and Town of Beloit Police Chief Ron Northop notes, “We are not asking your agency or community to commit to appropriate any funds to this project at this time.”
That phrase “at this time” troubles Moore. “That certainly suggests to me that there’s probably a cost in the future,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s a wise use of Janesville taxpayer money.”
Janesville police have a history of working with other agencies, adding credibility to Moore’s belief that the town’s proposal is unnecessary and ill-advised. In an interview with The Gazette, Moore mentioned a few examples of collaboration:
A mental-health flagging system alerts officers to mental-health issues affecting people officers encounter during service calls. The alerts offer tips for de-esculating potentially dangerous situations. Janesville police share this service with other departments, including the town of Beloit.
Janesville and Beloit police departments and the Rock County Sheriff’s Office together bought a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle for SWAT teams, which the three agencies also manage together.
The agencies also coordinate crowd-control efforts, such as during presidential candidate visits.
The town of Beloit has faced criticism recently for taking a go-it-alone approach to regional issues, such its decision to withdraw from the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and Greater Beloit Economic Development Council. That happened at about the same time the town filed a petition with the state to incorporate as a village, which is opposed by both the city of Beloit and Rock County.
The town has shown it can cooperate. It recently agreed to loan its fire chief, Gene Wright, to the Clinton Fire Department until Clinton is able to find a permanent replacement. But the town’s estimated $250,000 shooting range proposal is bewildering, especially given the Janesville shooting range’s proximity and reasonable rates.
Town residents should expect their representatives to coordinate with other local agencies and seek out common ground—not competition—while working to address the town’s needs.