| The Repository
ALLIANCE Joe Weyer is home, home on the range.
It’s the kind of range that’s too small for buffalo to roam; too dangerous for deer and antelope to play; and the skies get just as cloudy as they do anywhere else in Northeast Ohio.
“This place is about creating positive outcomes,” Weyer said, while walking the police department’s gun range and training facility on two acres of city-owned land off Rockhill Avenue NE.
It’s where law enforcement officers are taught everything from how to breach all types of locked doors, to dealing with hostages on a school bus. All of it is designed to improve the odds that innocent civilians or the officers themselves aren’t injured or killed in the process.
An Army veteran, the 49-year-old Weyer is the Alliance Police training officer and SWAT team commander. He’s also the face of the range, where he’s an instructor, landscaper, janitor, a Mr. Build-it and a Mr. Fix-it.
Weyer, a trainer since 1996, was honored last week by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, with a Distinguished Law Enforcement Award. The annual Ohio Law Enforcement Conference was held online this year.
In a statement about the award, Yost called the Alliance site a “world-class training facility.” Weyer was lauded for providing low-cost, high-quality training by building and mentoring a community of dedicated trainers.
The place doesn’t even have its own address. It’s a few winding turns behind the city wastewater treatment plant. But it’s no secret to law enforcement officers or some of the top instructors in the field.
Akron’s SWAT team was there last week.
Macedonia Police comes next month.
On a slow Friday morning, the parking lot already was peppered with vehicles from Ohio counties outside of Stark, as well as from Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York.
The training site regularly attracts paying customers from police departments, parole and port authorities, the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Defense and even foreign militaries.
“We’ve had police officers from Kuwait, England, New Zealand … , ” Weyer said.
The attraction is a facility that includes a: classroom building, 8,100 square-foot railroad tie-lined shoot house with a catwalk, live-fire aircraft training simulator; 50-yard and 330-yard range, as well as a Federal Class 5 vault to store and secure the military weapons of some visitors.
Built and upgraded largely with material donations from the community and countless hours of sweat equity, the facility is valued at $1.8 million by the city’s insurance carrier, Weyer said.
“At one time, it was the second largest shoot house this side of the Mississippi,” said Alliance Police Chief Scott Griffith.
The facility, Griffith said, pays for itself. Rental fees, paid by law enforcement agencies, and trainers who use the place as a base for instruction and classes to officers and the public, pay for everything.
Aside from having its own on-site training facility, Alliance Police officers are given free spots to attend many private classes.
“The more you train, the more it becomes repetition,” Griffith said.
The chief said the more an officer is trained, the less likely he or she is to make a mistake while on duty. And that, he explained, goes far beyond stationary shooting at a target in broad daylight.
“Force on force training … night training,” Griffith said. “Our officers who are on the midnight shift, their entire shift takes place in the dark … “Joe Weyer is keeping people alive; I can’t think of a much more noble cause.”
Weyer also own a private business — Weyer Tactical. Griffith said not only does Weyer have all the tactical knowledge of an accomplished instructor, he also knows how to run the city’s facility as a business.
“That’s rare to find in a police officer,” the chief said.
A sampling of remarks in Weyer’s award nomination letters, presented to the Attorney General’s office:
• Gary Greco, a retired senior intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, called Weyer an innovator. “His engaging personality and dynamic study and research has helped shape contemporary approaches and perspectives … an honorable man of great humility and professionalism.”
• Lt. David R. Newman, Catawba Police. “He is clearly dedicated to bringing new people into the fold .. When asked about why he supports training qualified civilians he answers that the more people who understand the law enforcement mission and see inside the police effort the easier and more successful our work will be … clearly ‘big picture’ thinking … “
• Chase Jenkins deputy sheriff training division, Tuscaloosa County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Office. “It’s not uncommon to pull into the parking lot the day prior to class and find Joe mowing the grass, running a blower or weed eater, taking out trash, painting or running down necessary class logistics … To see a person put forth the effort for his own department is extremely rare but to do it for cops across the nation is unheard of. That is an unprecedented level of caring.”
• Michael Sebastian, Chicago Police SWAT team member. “His ability to proficiently organize and communicate has allowed the Alliance facility to become recognized as one of the premier training venues in the country.”
• Paul A. Carlson, owner, Safety Solutions Academy. “Detective Weyer … understands the many steps necessary to break complex topics into digestible chunks of knowledge for those who wish to improve … welcoming attitude and check your ego at the door approach encourages officers who may be training shy to participate.”
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