MOULTRIE, Ga. -- If you’ve ever wondered who’s the better shot between the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office, and Moultrie Police and Fire Departments, Oct. 3 was the best time to find out.
All three agencies faced off at the Moultrie First Responder Association’s first shooting competition, competing for the biggest slice of a $15,000 prize. Long story short, the CCSO won.
Where CCSO won $7,500, the MPD won $4,500 and the MFD won $3,000 after competing in four stages: pistol plate rack, precision rifle, shotgun skeet and dueling tree.
Teams of three from each agency took on each stage timing six handgun shots on how many plates are hit in stage one; timing five Ruger precision rifle six millimeter shots on how many hit four inch plates at 100 yards in stage two; 10 semi auto 12 gauge shots on how many hit wobble trap targets to the left and right in stage three; and targeting 12 shots on four inch plates.
It was a hard-fought battle, MFRA Head Dennis Futch said, but it was one that fostered positive responses.
“I’ve heard officers say today ‘I’m practicing between now and next year so I can get better,’” Futch said. “(And) it’s going to foster officers to train and get better, and foster competitiveness between them that will enhance the safety of all officers and the public.”
After all, that was one of the reasons Futch, Greg Yarbrough and George Plymel -- the MFRA founders -- put the shooting competition and the organization itself together.
The other was making sure first responders were taken care of, so they in turn can take care of the community. If an agency has a need that’s not in their budget — such as the fire department needing new helmets — the MFRA can help with that.
“We want to show the police officers, firemen, EMS -- all these first responders that help take care of us on a daily basis -- that we support them, that our community supports them and we appreciate them,” Futch said. “They’re usually not paid enough and we want to provide a safety net for them.”
There hasn’t been a lot of good press for first responders (specifically police officers), so the MFRA had a bonus goal of providing some morale -- a gesture saying “We got you.”
The MFRA came into existence two to three weeks ago, Futch said, and during that time they planned the shooting competition and raised $15,000 via 53 sponsors.
This money was meant for items outside the budget that could help the agency perform better and more safely.
Sheriff Rod Howell said CCSO will be using its winning to purchase better equipment for the tactical response team and buy better communication devices.
“The standard deputy’s communication (device) is just not what we need in close quarters like that, so we’re going to look at that,” He said. “I think the way Ronald (Jordan) talks, we’re going to be able to fund every bit of it with this money.”
And that’s at no cost to the taxpayer. Much like most law enforcement agencies, CCSO is funded by taxpayer dollars that are worked into a budget.
Howell said within that budget, CCSO trims extras that they do need, but aren’t “pivotal parts of the job.” That $7,500 will allow them to buy those extras.
The MFRA opened the contest to the three largest agencies in the county as a test drive. Police departments in Norman Park, Doerun and Berlin, for example, weren’t invited to participate, but are expected to benefit as the MFRA gains momentum.
“We can’t include everyone in the competition initially because it’s our first one,” he said. “We’re still learning how to do this. But everyone’s going to benefit because the association is getting kicked off.”
While one of the association’s benefits is having this annual shooting competition, another is a “benevolence fund” that will accumulate funds over time.
This fund is meant to be used in case a first responder is killed, injured, or has family issues in which the money could be used. The representative, i.e. the first responder or their family, can apply for a grant from the fund and receive it once approved.
Another added benefit is the idea of family. Beyond just the agencies competing, Georgia State Patrol troopers and even the game warden showed up to the competition.
Like Howell said in the aftermath of the competition, “I’d put our group against any other group in the country.”
“You go find me another community where the sheriff’s office, their police department(s) and their fire department(s) are as close as a group as we are,” Howell said. “We’re all in it together.”
The MFRA is preparing for its second event, a “Back the Blue” rally, on Oct. 24 starting at noon at the courthouse square. Every law enforcement officer in the county is invited for food and an aluminum flashlight as a thank you, Futch said.