Former Minneapolis school now used for police training draws concerns

A former north Minneapolis elementary school, now used as a tactical training facility for the Minneapolis Police Department, is drawing a new round of concern from residents.

At one time, a gun or shell casing was about the last thing neighbors ever expected to see at Willard Hay Elementary.

But for nearly 10 years, the now empty building has taken on a new role. Minneapolis Public Schools leases the old building to Minneapolis Police.

"The officers are practicing clearing classroom, clearing hallways," said Corey Schmidt, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department.

The real world layout is a perfect training ground for active shooter scenarios.

"This is another training tool that is providing the officers all the tools and training to help keep the public safe," said Schmidt.

Officers use what's referred to as "simunition," a non-lethal training round.

"The people who live in the neighborhood are not actually hearing gunshots, they are hearing something very similar to a cap gun," said Schmidt.

But the facility is not without its complaints.

North Minneapolis activist Philip Murphy is worried about the casings and live rounds that he says he picked up on school grounds. Murphy said he has 140 pictures of casings he found.

"They drop this stuff here in a community and city that's least able to defend itself," said Murphy.

Others expressed concern about noise and the choice to hold the training in a residential area.

But most residents who spoke to Fox 9 were largely indifferent. Some even said they like the training and it makes them feel safe.

Either way, it could be over soon.

The contract between the Minneapolis Police Dept. and Minneapolis Public Schools is set to expire in four weeks and future contracts at this point remain pending.

Minneapolis police do train at other facilities in the city and hold only a portion of their tactical training at Willard Hay Elementary.