Sgt. Salicia Belton is Metro's range master for its firearms training operation.
Sgt. Salicia Belton is Metro's range master for its firearms training operation.

Salicia Belton views herself as someone who does her job without a lot of fanfare and shuns the limelight. However, Belton quietly made history months ago when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA or also known as Metro) board finalized her selection as the leader of the agency’s police department’s firearms training range. 

Metro officials confirm Belton is the first woman and first African American to serve in that position.

“I am in charge of the agency’s weapons and ammunition range,” Belton, 51, said. “It is a multimillion-dollar operation. I oversee training officers on how to use their weapons, maintenance of the range, working within its budget and seeing that it is well supplied.”

The firearms training range operation started in 2006 when Metro officials learned that its police officers faced decertification due to their inability to schedule time at other firing ranges to practice and requalify to use firearms. Metro police officers are required to recertify their firearm credentials for the District, Maryland, and Virginia, meeting those jurisdictions’ specific qualifications. 

A presentation, “Approve Project to Build a Metro Transit Police Firearms Training Range,” was made to Metro’s board of directors on November 9, 2006, and the board ultimately approved it. A range master was selected to manage the facility.

Belton’s Charge

Belton said her road to success at WMATA had humble beginnings.

“I am a 1991 graduate of Eastern High School,” she said. “Before I joined the Metro Police Department, I worked in construction and for a bank.”

Belton said working in law enforcement was a career goal and explored other agencies before signing up with Metro.

“I decided to become a police officer for Metro because I like the work and the challenges presented,” she said. “Metro is a different type of agency because it is tri-jurisdictional, and an officer had to meet the qualifications and follow the laws in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. I also like Metro because I find it to be family-oriented.”

Belton said there is no typical day in managing the range. There are days when the primary activity is training officers and special officers. She said it is her responsibility to train Metro’s Special Response Team, which is the agency’s version of SWAT. There are also other days when she completes paperwork for the agency and for the three jurisdictions in which Metro officers operate.

Belton has made it a personal and professional goal to be able to do whatever is needed to operate the range.

“If someone is missing, I fill in on the job,” she said. “If a weapon is broken or doesn’t work, I make it my business to fix it.”

Belton said she is the only woman and the only Black person, as far as she knows, working as a range master for a law enforcement agency in the District, Maryland or Virginia.

On July 27, Belton was recognized by WMATA’s board at its monthly meeting for her outstanding work as the range master. Metro’s general manager and CEO Randy Clarke echoed the board’s sentiments.

“She has been great at Metro,” Clarke said. “I find her to be professional and good at what she does. Belton embodies the idea of servant leadership and I think the Metro board made the right decision in hiring her for that position.”

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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