Public Safety Training Center Dedicated to Former Sheriff Larry Ashley
CRESTVIEW – The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Training Center has taken on a new name to honor a former sheriff who was largely behind its creation.
County officials gathered on Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of Sheriff Larry Ashley’s new Public Safety Training Center in Crestview. The complex was completed shortly after current Sheriff Eric Aden took office in January, but it was a project largely led by former Sheriff Larry Ashley.
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“Larry Ashley has done a lot in his 30s,” Aden said. “He was a visionary. I never worked for someone who had a vision like him. He was able to foresee the needs of the agency, such as this building, well in advance.
The area was used by the sheriff’s office as a shooting range for several years, but was in need of improvement. Aden remembers shooting clay pigeons on the shooting range many years before it was big enough to accommodate 30 shooters.
The center now has several firing ranges and a two-story building used to train law enforcement in defensive tactics and in classrooms. The complex is also used to train K-9 units, as K-9 Burt and his handler Tony Costantini demonstrated on Thursday as Burt broke through walls and other obstacles.
MPs demonstrated their forceful breaching capabilities by using explosives to pierce makeshift doors, and officials got a glimpse of another building that houses the MILO range simulator. Computer simulation is used to train assistants in active shooter and use-of-force situations.
“The MILO is, for me, the most impressive part of the complex,” said Aden. “You can see how split-second decisions mean life and death for these officers. It teaches us when and when not to act.
The deaths in the line of duty of MPs Warren Keith “Skip” York and Burton “Burt” Lopez have significantly changed the way the sheriff’s office delivers training. York and Lopez were shot dead in April 2009 while attempting to arrest a domestic violence suspect at a shooting range in Crestview.
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“We have all felt the extreme loss …” said court clerk JD Peacock, who spoke at the dedication Thursday. “Larry went through this as a leader, as a friend, as a mentor to these MPs. This is something that has really marked the way we serve our community as a leader. How we take care of those we serve.
Ashley said he realized MPs need to spend more time training. However, the facilities available at the time were “insufficient”. The only class setting available was a small room at the sheriff’s office headquarters in Shalimar, and the gun rage was “modest.”
“No one I know has fought more to educate and bring professionalism to law enforcement in our community than Larry Ashley,” said former County Commissioner Graham Fountain. “Not just in our community, even across the state.”
Ashley worked with county commissioners and several chambers of commerce to get the project started. It started with improving gun range and eventually turned into a nearly $ 2 million complex. The project was funded by a voter-approved half-cent sales tax increase.
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“It’s just a dream come true,” Ashley said after the dedication. “We just hope that this resort, as things have changed over the years in law enforcement, will continue to grow with this facility and the offerings it offers. Whether it’s computer crimes or financial crimes, whatever they are. “
Aden said he hopes to continue Ashley’s legacy with a focus on professionalism and training. The sheriff’s office recently acquired an additional 40 acres that could potentially be turned into a driving range to teach MPs evasive maneuvers or used to expand the K-9 training area.
“It puts a lot more emphasis on making sure we’re providing the best service to our community, and that’s one of them,” Aden said. “Without a suitable training center, you cannot train properly. “
The inauguration ended with a blessing on the complex run by Commissioner Mel Ponder. While many people were involved in establishing the Public Safety Training Center, Ashley said it was humbling to know that her legacy will live on in the name.
“I am very proud and especially honored to have left a legacy,” he said. “Most civilians will never see my name on this building, but almost all law enforcement officers, the men and women in the sheriff’s office, will see my name on this building and ask why. I hope they will learn why.
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Crestview Training Center Dedicated to Former Sheriff Larry Ashley