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Working on a range of skills

Jackson Bell

This is the latest in an occasional series on Burbank Police

Department bureaus.

HILLSIDE DISTRICT -- No matter what their rank, every Burbank


Police officer has to answer to Larry Nichols when they’re on his


That’s because Nichols, the department’s rangemaster, is the man

responsible for keeping officers up to date on the shooting tactics


of police work. He does so by requiring them to pass his

custom-designed training sessions.

“From the top down, no one is exempt,” Nichols said. “The chief

has to pass my required monthly training just like everyone else.”

Nichols executes his lessons in weaponry at the police shooting

range, nestled deep in Wildwood Canyon Park, near where a brush fire

broke out Oct. 21.

When he took the job in 1984, Nichols began altering the regimen


every month to keep officers abreast of what is happening in the

streets. Instead of standing in place and shooting at a fixed target,

officers practice drills such as running, climbing, ducking and

getting into and out of cars while firing rounds.

“I don’t make it easy on them, because if it were easy, they

wouldn’t learn anything,” Nichols said. “What I do is create a new

comfort zone and then push the envelope.”

In order to provide well-rounded training, Burbank Police Officer


Brent Ambrose often teaches hand-to-hand combat at the range, which

has a gym. Ambrose teaches arrest-and-control, and instructs officers

on how to use batons, Mace and knives. He and other officers even

built a house on the range about seven years ago for simulating real


“It works great for teaching lower-level shooting techniques and

arresting people inside homes,” Ambrose said, adding that the house

is furnished with domestic items as detailed as soap next to the


To keep his skills sharp and reinforce Nichols’ training, Officer

Stephen Turner said he practices at the range three to four times a


“Thankfully, I haven’t had to shoot [my gun] while on duty,” said

Turner, who has been with the department for more than two years.

“But I always have a sense of wariness, and the more range training I

have, the better prepared I’ll be when the time comes.”

That, Nichols said, is what the range is for.

“The whole purpose is for them to end their shift and go home,”

Nichols said. “I do my best to ensure that happens.”