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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Glimpse of Westport Police Training Rarely Seen

By Dave Matlow

A sandwich board sign outside a home on Westport’s Hidden Hill, yellow police tape, and some police cars are the only indication something unusual is going on.WestportNow.com Image
Dressed in protective gear, police officers (l-r) Casey Mezerewski and Erin Shaw prepare for a simulated exercise with Officer Sean Kelly. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Inside, police wear Darth Vader-like helmets and move cautiously as they repeatedly simulate what to do when the unexpected happens.

Welcome to the Westport Police Department’s special tactical training. The simulated exercises are taking place this week in the soon-to-be-demolished home off Compo Road South.

According to Police Captain Sam Arciola, the range of training scenarios includes domestic disturbances, communicating with emotionally disturbed persons and uncooperative people, and utilizing various communication skills to defuse a situation.

The training helps officers determine when to enlist the support of other local and state resources when an automatic alarm check or other routine call might quickly turn into a pursuit of burglars or hostage standoff.

Training Officer Chris Proudfoot notes that as the economy has worsened, the number of violent incidents, some of them deadly, have increased.

Westport has seen its share of such incidents, including at least two cases of people barricading themselves inside homes as well as several vehicle pursuits of WestportNow.com Image
A sign and police tape warn residents on Hidden Hill of the training exercise. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
suspects.

“The country is losing an officer a day,” he said. “There have been 47 police officers killed this year.” 

Arciola said Westport is in line with other communities staging intensive training for its police personnel. “It’s been a violent year across the nation,” he said.

And some of the more violent incidents have been close to home, he said, citing the recent shooting at point blank range of a Stamford officer.

Arciola said the training on Hidden Hill involves rotation shifts of six to eight officers in four-hour blocks.

The simulated training starts with a routine call made over the police radio and ends when the home and its occupants are deemed “secure.”

The training calls for split-second decision making and close coordination – skills Westport police personnel learn from their earliest days at the police academy but which only get better with practice.

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Posted 03/31/11 at 09:00 AM  Permalink



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