SUWANEE -- The days of Suwanee police officers burning overtime as they travel to Lawrenceville, Braselton or even Jackson County for training exercises are almost over.
A groundbreaking was held in January, and the foundation was poured in late February for the police substation and training facility near Interstate 85 on 2996 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road in the Gateway area. The facility, which the SPD said is a long time coming, will feature a four-lane indoor firing range, training rooms with mats for defensive drills and classrooms with state-of-the-art technology, like a SMART Board.
The one-story facility will be 7,100 square feet and cost about $1.99 million funded primarily through SPLOST. Groundbreaking and construction began in January, and work is expected to finish this fall.
Police Chief Mike Jones said the facility will only augment police presence around 85, which he noted was paramount to preventing at least one bank robbery several years ago.
The admitted bank robber, after he was arrested, told a story about returning to Suwanee a month after an initial bank robbery.
"But when I exited off," Jones recalled the robber saying, "and I started to turn on Lawrenceville-Suwanee (Road), I saw two or three police cars just scattered here and there, and it scared me. So I got back on 85 and went to North Carolina and robbed a bank that day."
The officer who will notice the biggest day-to-day change is Sgt. Bryan Hickey, who is the department's training supervisor. Hickey has been the firearms and defensive tactics instructor since 2002.
"It's been a long time coming," Hickey said. "It's going to facilitate our training tremendously especially in those high liability areas."
Hickey said officers currently travel to the Lawrenceville Police Department's outdoor firing range, and use Shadowbrook Baptist Church for defensive tactics training. But those facilities are not always available, Hickey said, especially to accommodate Suwanee's schedule, most notably officers working the overnight shift.
"That's going to take a lot of pressure off of us," SPD Capt. Clyde Byers said. "So we're not at the mercy of other agencies."
Added Jones, "Now a lot of the training can be done on duty. Take a slower day and take a couple officers today and spread it over a period of time. Hopefully reduce overtime and have better access to training."
To receive more certification, Suwanee sends officers to the state facility in Forsyth, some 90 miles from the city, to complete 40 hours of training. Hickey said that distance eats up a week of time.
The new facility provides savings on overtime and travel expenses, Hickey said, and the opportunity to host other agencies for local training and certification.
It also gives the chance to focus on a specific situation.
"We can take that individual and put them through (additional training)," Hickey said. "Whether it's remedial training to refresh their skills and expose them to different things."