As the Class of 2014 listened intently to SWAT Commander James Steffens’ explanation of how the tactical team works, an unknown man in the group grabbed a woman, dragging her screaming into the street. A police car arrived with lights and sirens. Gunshots were exchanged until a flash bang grenade suddenly exploded 50 feet away. As the Sheriff’s SWAT team descended on the suspect from the Bearcat armored vehicle, the suspected kidnapper dropped to the pavement and gave up without further shots being fired. In a few short seconds the class, as well as local media who were present, had a first-hand example of the dangerous and highly charged situations faced by the team members.
This was only one of many experiences had by the Class of 2014. The day started with an intense robbery scenario in which each member of the class was assigned a law enforcement job, with the responsibility of figuring out the best course of action to respond to the dangerous situation. The class was broken into five teams, and each team later explained how they responded, what assets they employed, and why they took the actions they did. Sheriff Nocco and his entire command staff watched and listened as the teams de-briefed.
As the morning progressed the Sheriff discussed the issues facing his agency, followed by another enlightening panel discussion. The panel took the class through a criminal case from beginning to end, with Chiefs Kim Bogart (NPRPD) and Ray Velboom (DCPD) explaining the arrest procedure. Booking and detentions issues were discussed by Col. Harrington (PSO) with the prosecution and defense positions detailed by State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Public Defender Bob Dillinger. The first appearance hearing was discussed by County Judge Candy VanDercar, and the case was then concluded through plea negotiations with Circuit Judge Shawn Crane.
As the morning and afternoon progressed the class learned about the growth of Intelligence Lead Policing and the number of arrests made because of Sheriff Nocco’s implementation of that program. Identity Theft captured their attention next with an outstanding presentation, followed by a look into the world of child abuse and neglect by the Child Protective Investigators.
Many class members commented about the fact they were very happy to get out of jail. After a one and one-half hour walking tour, the consensus was that no one wanted to spend a great deal of time in the housing unit without a key to get out.
Unfortunately, mother nature provided us with a very hot day for the outside exercises, but the entire class managed to do “sweat equity” by visiting the pig farm and agricultural unit, the Missing and Abducted Children’s Command Center, the SWAT Command Center, Aviation and the K-9 kennel. The day ended with an outstanding demonstration of the tracking capabilities of the K-9’s along with a “take-down” of a fleeing person by “Thor.”
As the adrenaline drained from the class following the demonstrations, they returned to the classroom to finalize evaluations, and begin the tough process of choosing their class officers and project. The evaluation forms once again showed the Criminal Justice Day remains a premier day, thanks to the dedication of all the participants. Next year’s event is already in the planning stage with more innovative deomstrations.