Officers get competitive
By MIKE CORN
From hushed whispers to raucous laughter, officers chatted as they waited for their turn at the line.
Then it was pure business, the focus on two things: speed and accuracy.
Failure at either one meant harsh penalties for participants in the Kansas Peace Officers Spring Shoot at the Hays Police Department's shooting range.
Thirty-six officers took to the pistol range last week, hoping to win either individual or team awards.
Terry Stithem, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper based in WaKeeney, won the fastest line of fire award, and the HPD won first and third in division 2 -- midsize agencies in the state.
Hays sent two four-man teams to the event only because it was based in Hays, according to Harold Anderson, an HPD patrolman who also serves as the rangemaster, the department's head firearms man.
Anderson didn't know for sure how many people to expect at the shoot, knowing it tends to be something of a regional event based on where it is in the state.
"One of the things making it kind of iffy this year is ammunition," he said.
Rather, the scarcity of it.
The inability for law enforcement agencies to get all the ammunition they need for training has been a constant worry.
By the end of the match, just 37 officers signed up and shot at the range.
"I think a lot of it right now is a lot of departments are having problems getting ammo," said Charles Rummer, a retired Wichita police officer who has been helping with the KPOA shoots for more than 30 years.
Even the state's training academy, responsible for training virtually all Kansas officers, is struggling.
Rummer said the academy has "300,000 rounds on order that they can't get."
Shooting the three-stage tournament uses a lot of ammo -- 108 rounds to cover all three, Anderson said.
Each round takes 36 rounds of ammunition.
It's all about speed and accuracy, however.
At each stage, shots are scored. Misses result in a 10-second time penalty, massive in two rounds when the fastest time was a shade more than 23 seconds.
"So you don't want to miss," Anderson said.
And it provides an opportunity to compete against other departments in the state.
"It's mostly a bragging thing," he said of winning.
But it also offers camaraderie, the chance to work with people from other departments.
"And it's fun," Anderson said.