CHPD’s SERT Ready For Crisis Situations
CHAPEL HILL – Tragedies like the Boston Marathon Bombings and the Newtown Shootings have put personal safety in question more than ever before.
On a local level, there was a suspicious package found on UNC’s campus last week, and Duke University recently experienced a bomb threat. Small incidents in comparison, but ones that still keep us on edge.
The Chapel Hill Police Department’s held the final day of the Citizen’s Police Academy Sunday. Some attendees, like Cindy Williams, asked officers questions about how they would handle a bomb threat or shooting.
Williams and other participants got a behind-the-scenes look as SERT: the CHPD’s Special Emergency Response Team. SERT went through several real-life simulations, from rescuing a citizen with life-threatening injuries to tracking-down a suspect on the run. One of the scenarios involved deploying flashbang stun grenade. It’s a non-lethal explosive device used to temporarily disorient an enemy’s senses.
“Knowing that they have a response team like SERT that can respond along with the regular patrol officers working an event is comforting,” Williams said. “I think particularly on a football Saturday where there’s a lot of traffic already—there’s no doubt in my mind that these guys can get somewhere quick.”
Cpt. Danny Lloyd explained that last year, SERT acquired the massive Armor Personnel Carrier from a federal surplus.
He says the vehicle allows for faster response times in emergency situations when seconds mean the difference between life and death.
“It allows us to move into a situation or an environment where there is still risk to officer safety as well as to civilians,” Cpt. Lloyd said.
SERT is made up of 10 members—all volunteers from within the CHPD. Members have 16 hours of special training a month in addition to their required officer training.
There are three SERT sharp shooters; to keep that position, shooters have to be able to hit a 1-inch target from 100 yards away once a month. They train an additional 18 hours a month to sharpen their skills.
And it’s a key time for local law enforcement with UNC athletic events, races like the Tar Heel 10 Miler, and major university gatherings like graduation happening around the town.
Cpt. Lloyd explains that for big events—like the Tar Heel 10 Miler which brought more than 5,000 runners to Chapel Hill— the CHPD and UNC Department Safety will work together.
After incidents like Boston Marathon Bombings, Lloyd explains that SERT evolves their strategies and training so that they are prepared if something similar happens in Chapel Hill.
Another key component of keeping the public safe during big events is the K-9 Unit.
The CHPD does not have a bomb-sniffing dog but they do have three trained dogs to search out the drugs, find evidence and hunt-down suspects evading arrest. UNC DPS has one bomb-sniffing dog.
“It’s vital to the safety of all of our officers,” said Srgt. Gabe Shinn. “It’s crucial that we have the dogs to find somebody hiding somewhere, particularly if they want to do us harm. Dogs can sniff out suspects hiding in a wooded-setting, building, or anywhere really. The dogs have the ability to detect that odor long before we see that person—because we may not see them.”
The CHPD’s three dogs are named MJ, Jax, and Kernie, and they actually live with the officers. CHPD has the budget for four dogs. MJ is retiring soon, and Srgt. Shinn says they’ll bring-in two more dogs sometime this year or next.
The CHPD will hold another Citizen’s Police Academy this fall.
CHPD’s Crime Simulator Put Citizen’s Police Academy Attendees In Action
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Police Department welcomed the public Wednesday night to the annual Citizen’s Police Academy.
16-year-old Ryan Winstead attended because she’s watched all the crime shows on TV—but wanted to see what it’s really like to be a police office.
She was the first attendee to raise her hand to participate in the crime-situation simulator, which put the East Chapel Hill high school student in the middle of a domestic dispute. Acting as the officer, Winstead faced a drunken woman charging at her with a knife.
“Now I’m not just like, ‘Oh, they’re just protecting people.’ I understand now— it’s really intense!” Winstead said.
Officers invited others to give the simulator a try. Participants learned just how difficult it is to act as a police officer and then react in a matter of seconds.
CHPD trains on the simulator, which is made up by a projector and a big screen. The interactive program responds to the actions of the person doing the exercise.
Another simulation involved a suicidal man shooting at the officer and then shooting himself.
“You see thing is CSI like that but being in the situation is totally different. You realize at that point that you have to be aware of everyone else and not just yourself. You have to protect everyone else,” Winstead said.
Investigator Johnnie Britt
Other topics covered included equipment demonstrations, arrest procedures, magistrate dealings, and a crime scene and forensic evidence overview.
This year’s Citizen’s Police Academy had a different set-up than in years past. Srgt. Josh Mecimore says the CHPD worked with students from UNC’s School of Government to condense the program.
“It gives them a lot of information in a really short amount of time and I think it gives them a really good insight into the daily workings of the police department,” Srgt. Mecimore explained.
Officers also shared their personal stories, getting candid about the dangerous situations they’d been through.
CHPD Police Chief Chris Blue
Attendees had the chance to ask officers questions after their presentations. Jim Ward of the Chapel Hill Town Council and James Barrett of the Chapel Hill Carrboro Schools BoE showed their support by participating.
“A big part of it is to meet a lot of the people and get them involved in what we do. A lot of what we do relies on community involvement,” Srgt. Mecimore said.
WCHL will attend Sunday night’s session of the Citizen’s Police Academy; listen in on Monday for a full-recap.
Citizen’s Police Academy: An Action-Packed Two Days To Come
CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Police Department will meet in April to host its third annualCitizen’s Police Academy.
Public Information Sergeant for the Chapel Hill Police Josh Mecimore comments on what participants gain from the academy.
“The purpose of it is to give citizens in the community an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a police officer,” says Mecimore. “Citizens will see what a day in the life of a Chapel Hill police officer is.”
The academy is a two-day event held over three days with two week night sessions and one Sunday session. Applicants will be broken up into two groups and each group will attend one week day session either on Wednesday, April 24 or Thursday, April 25. Attendees will meet from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. On Sunday, April 28 both groups will attend from 1:00 p.m. until 5:45 p.m.
Mecimore says the short schedule will be action-packed, but beneficial.
“We are trying to give a full picture of the police department in just those two days rather than stretching it out over a long period,” says Mecimore. “We’re hoping that by shortening it and by only giving vital content we will get more people involved and people can get more out of it.”
The academy will include interactive sessions involving the simulation of various scenarios, a walk through of the arrest process, several discussions on use of force, canine demonstrations, social and mental health issues, equipment display, internal affairs, and emergency response capabilities.
Participants have the chance to give feedback on the academy.
“We’re going to give people cards at the beginning and then they can write down thoughts that they have,” says Mecimore. “We will deal with a question and answer/commenting at the end. Then on Sunday we will have a graduation ceremony and then an opportunity for people to hang out and ask questions.”
The first two days will be held at the CHPD on Martin Luther King Blvd. and on Sunday will be at the CHPD Public Works Facility off of Millhouse Road.