On one morning last week, officers with the Windham Police Department took aim and fired over 300 rounds of ammunition.

For more than two hours at a firing range behind Gorham Public Works, instructor Ray Williams and Sgt. Mike Denbow supervised the Windham Police Department’s annual firearms training.

“We don’t do this enough,” Denbow said. “Other places do this three to four times a year, but we just don’t have it in our budget.”

The officers lined up and were instructed to fire a number of rounds at their paper targets. They aimed at either a silhouette figure of human torso and head, or that of an old-style milk bottle. In unison, the shooters drew their guns and took aim. Then they re-holstered their weapons.

“Live line, live line!” Denbow yelled, indicating that guns were loaded and drawn.

“One second, one round!” said Williams, also raising his voice so that the officers would hear him through their protective earmuffs.

The officers drew their guns from the harnesses, firing one round into the body of the target, and re-holstering their firearms.

“Good,” Denbow said. “Now! Two rounds, two seconds! Two rounds! Two seconds!”

The officers drew and fired two rounds, brass .357 shells ejecting from their standard issue Sig Sauer pistols. One shell hit Officer Jeff Smith, Windham High School’s School Resource Officer, in the chin.

“That was hot,” he said as he rubbed the mark on his face.

The officers wore protective eye-wear as well as earmuffs. Williams said that is one of the main reasons many cops wear sunglasses on the job – not for intimidation, but for better vision in blinding sunlight and protection should they need to draw and fire their pistols.

“These things are all over the place,” Smith said about the flying shells. “Just like your shooting,” he said jokingly to another officer. They both laughed. Both paper targets held the same amount of punctures, arrayed in similar fashion, none outside the black area.

The officers joked during the reloading sessions, making light of one another, their jobs and life itself. But with each firing session, their bodies stiffened in stance and posture and their movements were calm and direct. The officers’ words were few – but instructional – and supportive of one another.

“Cover!” Officer Tricia Buck yelled out, dropping a clip to the ground and slamming another one into the handle of her pistol. She fired her remaining shot at the target, piercing the black and allowing the morning sunlight to shine through.

“Good shot,” Officer Dubie yelled, watching, as he had already finished firing his rounds.

For two hours, the police officers practiced moving towards and away from the target, shielding themselves behind barriers, firing from kneeling positions and lying down.

“Smitty, you got 50 for 50,” Ed Dubie said after the session was over. “Think you can do that with the buckshot?”

After training with the pistols was over, Officer Smith and Officer Dubie practiced their aim with police-issued shotguns, using both slug rounds and buckshot.

“You’re not always going to have a human for an advisory,” Williams said, pointing to Dubie.

“Yeah,” Dubie added.

Just two weeks ago, Dubie was forced to shoot a dog as it attacked him.

“I just showed up to serve a court order to this guy,” Dubie said. “And the next thing I know, I was running from the dogs. I got halfway back to my vehicle when the dog caught up with me, biting my arm up. At that point, I didn’t see much of a choice.” Dubie said he was not happy about shooting the animal, but expressed his relief that it was not a person. “The owner took it well, not happy, but understanding that I did what I had to do.”

The officers are looking into organizing another “Active Shooter” exercise. During that training they will act out probable scenarios using paintball guns. They are also shot at in return.

The department is also scheduling a time when the officers can train with assault rifles and other types of standard issued firearms.

“The training isn’t just to be a better shot,” Williams said. “That’s just one aspect. How to walk properly so that you don’t trip over an object while backing up, or become a sitting duck while reloading, these are all things we work on. And judgment calls, which is what the job is all about.

“The point of this is not to make us better at killing people, but at protecting the public.”

A box of ammunition used by Windham Police during training at firing range. “These things add up,” Firing Instructor Ray Williams said.Detective David Bonneau practices shooting from behind a barrier.Officer Jeff Smith practices firing behind a barrier from a kneeling position.Officer Ed Dubie practices firing a police issued shotgun.

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