WPD training center adds Simunitions house, continues adding new agencies

By Jessica Peralta

The 1,700-square-foot house has several bedrooms, a living room, garage and some furniture.

But it’s not meant for residents of any kind. Its sole purpose is tactical.

“The whole design on it is based on a house where we’ve had an actual shooting,” said Westminster Police Department Sgt. Eddie Esqueda, who runs the agency’s 21,000-square-foot Range and Safety Training Center, which houses the new Simunitions house.

Sgt. Eddie Esqueda in the firing range in the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

Opened in July, the Simunitions house is set in a warehouse space adjacent to the range. It is composed of interchangeable plywood walls that can be easily rearranged to whatever training requires.

“We actually assembled it ourselves,” said Esqueda.

Only Simunitions – non-lethal, water-based paint ammunition – are used in the house. No live ammunition or guns are allowed. An assortment of scenarios is used in the house to simulate what officers have encountered in the field: barricaded person in a home, domestic violence, mental illness, unlawful entry, etc.

Sgt. Eddie Esqueda explains how the Simunitions house is used during a tour of the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

“We use civilian actors that act as bad guys,” Esqueda said.

The plan is to eventually place overhead-mounted cameras above the house so that the training can be recorded, critiqued and tactics improved.

“There’s just so many different things that you can do with this,” Esqueda said.

A mock-up of a living room in the Simunitions house. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

The Simunitions house, along with the larger facility, was created to form a “one-stop-shop” for local agencies to utilize for whatever training they need. Since the training center opened in December 2015, that’s exactly how it’s been used.

“Some part of this facility is rented every day,” said Esqueda.

Agencies including Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Tustin, Fountain Valley and Long Beach Police Departments regularly train at the facility, along with California Highway Patrol, West County SWAT and Golden West Police Academy. And additional agencies are on the horizon.

A classroom in the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

The benefit of a facility like this – which also includes a Training Room for classroom education, Mat Classroom for training in defensive tactics like baton training, and a state-of-the-art, 10-lane shooting range – is that everything is in one place for law enforcement training needs.

“We used it for all our qualifications,” Esqueda said of how the WPD uses the facility.

The 25-yard range allows for training using police vehicles that can be driven inside.

A classroom in the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

“We do simulation car stops with lethal scenarios,” Esqueda said. “Typically you’d see a unit out here for scenario training.”

The city-owned facility is strictly open to law enforcement agencies, and only sworn employees are allowed in the facility. The only civilians allowed in are the cleaning crew and volunteers who help Esqueda run the facility.

“Everybody’s background (is) checked and provided clearance by the agency,” he said.

Sgt. Eddie Esqueda of the WPD. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

Because the overhead is low for the facility, fees to outside agencies are close to half the cost of what they would pay to a private range. Another benefit is that there are no strict off-hours. As long as agencies book in advance, Esqueda is able to accommodate all schedules.

“They’ll be here ’til midnight,” he said of one agency. “We don’t really have any time constraints.”

The mat room in the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. The room is used for various tactics, ranging from baton and taser training to arrest-and-control training. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

Esqueda, who has been running the facility since February, when the previous sergeant retired, is in charge of everything from maintenance issues to keeping shooting targets stocked. He said he’s learned a lot about all aspects of running a business since he took over.

“I learned all the ins and outs,” he said.

Tools available in the gun-cleaning room of the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

The range, which is equipped with a control center where targets are controlled remotely, was designed after WPD officials toured other range facilities.

“Everything else was built around the shooting range,” he said. “They kind of took the best of everything they saw and put it here.”

Members of the Long Beach Police Department use the firing range. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

The firing range in the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos

A member of the Long Beach Police Department uses the firing range in the Westminster Police Department’s Range and Safety Training Center. Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos