On Monday, a crowd of about 50 gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the renovated Greenwich Police shooting range on Steamboat Road.
The crowd also got to witness the dedication of the training classroom to Lt James Fahy, who died last year, and celebrate the retirement of Deputy Chief Mark Marino after 38 years on the force.
The event was one of many Greenwich Police Dept events taking place during 2021, which marks 125h anniversary of the department.
Heavey credited Deputy Chief Marino and Al Monelli, the town’s head of Building Construction and Maintenance, for taking the lead in the project. Marino is set to retire next week.
The range on Steamboat Road was originally dedicated on May 20, 1986 – so it was 35 years ago, almost to the day, that the event took place.
Greenwich Police Chief James Heavey recalled coming out of the Police Academy in 1986 and firing about 1,000 rounds with a Smith & Wesson revolver at the range. While he started with a revolver, the standard firearm that officers carry today is a Glock 9mm.
Heavey and the two primary firearms instructors – Chris Girard and Robert Ferretti – explained the significance of the new state-of-the-art range.
Heavey said that over the years numerous Greenwich Police officers had been trained at the range in the use of deadly physical force, something they hopefully will never have to use.
Today, the pistol range is also state-of-the-art environmentally. Training involves lead free ammunition. Girard said even the primer is non toxic.
Heavey said it cost about $850,000 to renovate the range.
“I’ve been chief for nearly 10 years. That was my first ever interim appropriation and I had to ask humbly for additional moneys from the BET, but we did it in an effort to get the range done quicker to get it back in service.”
Heavey joked that he was not accountable for any of the holes in the ceiling. He noted that in the last 35 years, over a million rounds had been fired into the old the old “backstop” which he said definitely needed to be replaced.
“I could see sky through the back of the backstop when we first started,” Heavey said.
While the range was under construction, Greenwich Police borrowed space at the police academy in Meriden, but that was not ideal.
“The officers have training while they are on duty,” Heavey explained. “If they were working right here (on Steamboat Road) and an emergency comes in, they can quickly reactivate themselves as patrol officers to go right back on the road so we don’t have to wait.”
Heavey said currently there are 152 full time Greenwich Police Dept officers and about 30 special officers. They all have to maintain their pistol range certification. They also provide re-certification for all retired officers in the same facility.
The classroom at the pistol range was dedicated to Lt James Fahy who died less than a year ago. Dedicating the classroom to Fahy will serve as a reminder to new officers as to how important it is to focus on training.
Fahy’s training had prepared him for a serious response on a fateful evening in 1974.
“Three men robbed citizens in another town during a morning event,” Heavey recalled. “A Connecticut State Trooper heard the call, and spotted the fleeing vehicle near exit 3 and the old tolls. The CT State Police required assistance and Lt Fahy responded. When Fahy arrived on the scene, he exited his vehicle on I-95. Officer Fahy found himself facing one of the men pointing an automatic rifle at him and telling him to drop his weapon. The suspect told Fahy twice to drop his weapon. Officer Fahy’s training kicked in. He fired his 38 revolver and was able to prevent all three suspects from causing any further harm, saving the trooper’s life.”
Heavey said throughout his career, Lt Fahy was devoted to ensuring his officers received quality training.
“It is in honor of his bravery and steadfast courage against tremendous danger that we are dedicating this training classroom to Lt James Fahy,” he said.
Fahy’s widow Mary Ellen Monahan Fahy revealed a small plaque in honor of the classroom being dedicated to her husband.
Mrs. Fahy revealed a plaque dedicated to Lt Fahey that included a picture of him with a state trooper in 1974. Included in the display is Fahy’s weapon. Fahy was the only recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Silver Shield Association.
“I thank the Greenwich Police Dept for everything they did. There is not a kinder person in the world than Chief Jim Heavey. We are so honored,” Mrs. Fahy said.
Chris Girard, one of the primary firearms instructors, said an advantage of the new range was its ventilation system.
“As far as the range and safety, if there’s a stray shot and errant bullets, it’s not getting out of here. You don’t have to worry about hitting I95 or hitting a train,” Girard said, adding that there are ways to vary the lighting to simulate various scenarios including night time.
Girard said the range was 25 yards deep, which is important for recruit training. He described the backstop as comprised of chopped up tires topped with fire retardant, with added noise dampening.
Heavey said police training goes beyond firearms, as it applies to all the tools officers wear on their belt, including tasers, baton, and pepper spray in addition to body cameras and mandatory bullet proof vests, for a total of about 22 lbs of equipment.
“A lot of the classroom instruction will be on the non lethal weapons – taser, pepper spray, ASP – those are all important to our de-escalation training to prevent the use of the firearms,” Heavey said.
“Firearms and use of deadly force are the last resort, obviously,” Girard said.
First Selectman Fred Camillo recalled his memories of “Jimmy Fahy,” describing him not just as a hero cop, but as a townie and a volunteer.
“It’s not so much what he did as a police officer for many years – It’s what he did after. He still volunteered. Whether it was in the schools, the Redmen or the RTM. He was always a smiling face and a good guy. There is no more an appropriate person to name this after.”
Chief Heavey recognized Deputy Chief Mark Marino, who is set to retire next week after 38 years of service that included time with the UN Police.
Marino came through the ranks at Greenwich Police, spending significant time with the detective bureau and as commander of the Special Resonse Unit.
Marino was presented with a Certificate of Retirement.
“The last 38 years here have been the greatest. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with so many great people. They really have made my job so much easier because it’s just been a pleasure to come to work. That’s what I’ll miss the most, ” Marino said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many great people and represent the town of Greenwich and do the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life and I feel so blessed about that.”