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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘The house of public trust’: Long-awaited sheriff’s office training center opens on West Plains

Thousands of hours, persistence and a landmark partnership between Spokane County and Fairchild Air Force Base led to the grand opening of a state-of-the-art training center, officials said.

County, state and federal officials unveiled the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Regional Law Enforcement Training Center on Thursday.

“This building signifies and symbolizes this community’s and our elected officials’ commitment to excellence in policing (and) excellence in supporting the men and women of the armed forces who keep us safe,” Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels said.

Nowels said the facility, 13033 W. Medical Lake Road, includes a 21-lane indoor small arms range, eight classrooms, three conference rooms, a virtual training simulator, defensive tactics room, armories for law enforcement and military partners, a K-9 training area, a tactical shoot house and a 50-foot helicopter hoist training tower with a rappelling wall.

The center cost about $41 million, with Spokane County covering $26 million and the U.S. Air Force chipping in $15 million, according to the county.

Besides Fairchild and the sheriff’s office, Spokane Valley police Chief Dave Ellis said the facility can be rented out to other law enforcement agencies.

Nowels and Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney said the project was a “long time coming.”

Former Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he was told when he took office in 2007 that the training center would never come to fruition. On Thursday, Knezovich, Kuney and several others fired pistols at cardboard targets in the shooting range.

“If you think it’s worth it, never give up on it,” said Knezovich, who called the facility “the house of public trust.”

Nowels presented Knezovich with the Sheriff’s Star award Thursday for his dedication to the sheriff’s office, his vision for the training center and for “bulldogging through all of the politics to get it done.”

Nowels also credited Ellis for his commitment and attention to detail to the project.

“I cannot overstate how valuable Chief Ellis’ input and oversight has been,” he said.

Fairchild Air Force Base Installation Commander Col. Chesley Dycus gave kudos to visionaries like County Commissioner Al French, Knezovich and others.

“I look at the building behind us and I see a symbol of partnership that is more powerful than the tools that provide our airmen or our law enforcement professionals in Spokane County,” Dycus said.

After about 45 minutes of remarks, a line of officials used small scissors to cut a long blue ribbon, signifying the opening of the facility. Officials and those in attendance then toured the facility.

The lobby includes a 1915 Model T sheriff’s office patrol car on display and a television on the wall showing a recruiting video.

The tour moved into the firing range, where several members of the group, including Knezovich, Kuney and Ellis, formed a line and each fired five rounds at targets.

Behind the main building, a sheriff’s office SWAT team demonstrated how they search a structure in the tactical shoot house. Using a robot, a shield and rifles, the team cleared the shoot house.

Ellis said the shoot house walls can be moved and reconfigured so law enforcement officers can train on different-looking structures. Other personnel practiced hoist rescues from a stationary helicopter planted above the 50-foot training tower.

Ellis said using the stationary helicopter will keep its actual helicopters fresh, reduce fuel costs and allow them to train in poor weather.

The final tour stop was K-9 demonstrations at the K-9 training area.

Deputy Nate Overbay led his dog, Bo, through the tricks of the trade, including Bo latching his teeth onto a well-padded man playing a suspect.

“The safety of law enforcement, the safety of the military and the safety of our citizens is going to be enhanced by this great facility,” said Washington state Sen. Mike Padden .