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Police foundation: Driver-training track would save officers' lives

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The Jeffersonville, IN police car wrecked on Feb. 24, 2014. The Jeffersonville, IN police car wrecked on Feb. 24, 2014.
Barry Denton Barry Denton
The 99 acre site for the proposed LMPD driver training track. The 99 acre site for the proposed LMPD driver training track.
Councilman Dan Johnson Councilman Dan Johnson
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Barry Denton spent enough years in a cruiser with the former Jefferson County Police Department to know that the numbers don't lie.

"More officers are injured operating a vehicle, than they ever are in gun battles," said Denton.

Denton needs to look no further back than one day ago. On the afternoon of February 24, 2014, Jeffersonville, Indiana police officer Robert Grinestaff wound up in the hospital when his cruiser struck a Honda, then a pole. At the time of the accident Grinestaff was responding to a bank robbery. A department spokesperson said Grinestaff is now recuperating at home.

"If you look at how many hours in a day police officers are in a vehicle, it's natural; they're gonna be involved in accidents," said Denton, now the director of the Louisville Metro Police Foundation. "Maybe we can train them to avoid accidents."

The foundation is asking Louisville Metro Council to turn 99 acres of county-owned land south of Kosmosdale near the Bullitt County line into a driver-training track. It would replace the old track at Southfield in far eastern Louisville Metro. That property was sold to a developer seven years ago after Louisville and Jefferson County merged.

"There is a desperate need for something like this," Denton said.

Denton gets no argument from Councilman Dan Johnson, the chair the Metro Council's Public Works committee.

"There'll probably be upgrades, have to be," Johnson said. "But I think it's a good use for that property because it's probably contaminated otherwise. And I can't imagine a Councilman arguing against the Police Department."

Johnson will introduce the proposal next month. Should it pass, the Foundation may find itself trying to shoulder the estimated $700,000 construction cost.

"Right now, we're in a holding pattern," Denton said. "We don't want to start fundraising yet, until we truly know that we're gonna have that property."

To be certified as officers Louisville Metro Police cadets are required to complete five days driving training. LMPD has improvised training sites, such as the parking lots for the Kentucky Exposition Center and the former Louisville Downs harness track.

"It's open space, but it's not real-world," Denton said.

Kentucky has only one track and facility specifically designed to teach law enforcement officers defensive-driving skills. But the College of Justice & Safety at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond is about a 90 minute drive from Louisville.

Denton believes Louisville Metro could recoup some of the construction costs by charging other law enforcement agencies fees to train there. Several have expressed interest, Denton said, though he has declined to offer specifics.

"It'll save lives." Denton said. "It could save my life, it could save officers' lives. It could save your life."

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