STAPLETON, Alabama — Tucked off away from the main highway in Stapleton you will find, if you look hard enough, the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office Mill Creek Training Facility.
And while many people may not even know it’s there, the facility has served as a vital tool for the Sheriff’s Department and beyond for more than a decade and a half.
“We are very proud of this facility,” said Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack. “It serves as a great training facility, not only for this department, but for many others.”
When it was first built in 2003 under Sheriff Jimmy Johnson, the facility included one building for classroom training that could hold up to 36 officers.
In 2007, the Sheriff’s Department partnered with the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission to officer training for officers throughout the state. In 2011, a second training facility was built that can provide instruction for an additional 80 officers.
The facility also includes a firing range with 20 positions for close-range target shooting up to 50 yards and six rifle-range targets for shooting up to 100 yards.
There are also dummy vehicles set up on the property that can be used in different simulated scenarios.
“We may not yet be a seven-day-a-week facility,” said Sgt. Mike Miyaji, director of training/training coordinator for the facility, “but we’re definitely now a five-day-a-week facility.”
The facility includes three full-time staff members, Miyaji, an additional and training coordinator, Sgt. Bret Lankford, along with administrative assistant Debbie Bulman, who runs the office and oversees scheduling for the facility.
On Thursday, May 16 when a visit was made to the facility, two separate training exercises were being conducted, one that primarily provided classroom instruction called “De-Escalation Techniques and Active Listening Skills, which was conducted in partnership with Auburn University of Montgomery; and the second, “Stinger Spike Training” classes, which provided both classroom and field training, conducted in cooperation with Federal Signal Safety and Security Systems, the company that manufactures spikes officers use to stop a suspect seeking to run from officers.
“I’d say we do a lot more classroom training at this facility, probably about 75 percent classroom training to 25 percent active training,” Miyaji said. “Even when we have active training, a good portion of that training begins in the classroom, and all of our training includes a debriefing in the classroom to go over what we’re trying to teach them.”
The two training exercises included officers from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama State Docks, along with officers from Silverhill and Bay Minette Police Departments in Baldwin, Mobile and Dauphin Island police departments in Mobile County, along with Escambia County, Alabama, and Gautier, Mississippi.
“We primarily serve police departments throughout the Southeast,” Miyaji said, “but we’ve had officers as far away as New Jersey. The laws may differ slightly from state to state, but for the most part, the training techniques we use are the same and that is our primary focus.”
A list of classes can be found on the Law Enforcement Academy Baldwin County website, swpa.us, and are booked through December, ranging from supervisory and certification training to firearm and active shooter training.
“There really isn’t a downtime for training,” Miyaji said. “We’re booked pretty steadily throughout the year. Everything that we do is designed to keep our officers safe and protect our citizens as much as possible.”