Is America ready for the true cost of police reform? by Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed. D.

Some people calling for changes in policing probably do have a handle on the answers to those questions, but I contend that many do not.

Protesters across the country have been shouting for “police reform.”  But do they really know what truly reforming American law enforcement would entail–what it would cost?  Do they know what they themselves would first need to bring to the table?  Some people calling for changes in policing probably have a handle on the answers to those questions, but I contend that many do not.  Here are six things that politicians and protesters need to know about what they’d need to do to enable the changes they want in law enforcement:

1.  Bring us at least 25 percent increase in personnel.  If you demand more training, we’ll agree.  Just remember that for every hour a cop is in a training environment that’s one less officer responding to calls.  Either add some badges, or explain to the public why they’ll have to wait for a patrol car to show up.

2.  Bring us holistic support for our minds and bodies.  The realities of police stress are well documented.  Cumulative stress — especially with poor community support — will show up in all the wrong places.  Keep us strong.  That means professional, sustainable mental health initiatives.  Don’t make us wait for a crisis to see the chaplain or counselor.

3.  Bring us education for the public.  Everybody seems to know their rights and not their obligations.  The law requires compliance with a lawful command.  That’s the very un-mysterious resolution to the vast majority of police use-of-force encounters.

4.  Bring us minority applicants that you want to be your police officers.  We would love to have a department that represents our community.  Work with the children in your community — when they are young — to ensure that when they reach the age at which they may apply to become officers, they meet the criteria the profession demands (no criminal history, for example).  One big way to start is by respecting the profession.  It might rub off on somebody who could step up and be a great police officer.

5.  Bring us dignity as victims of violence.  Every justified use of force begins as an offense against the officer, whether resisting or assault.  Stop dropping charges where police are crime victims.  Stop writing checks to every arrestee who says “boo!” Let us sue bad guys.  Give us police leaders and prosecutors who know that a crime against the police is a crime against everyone’s peace and dignity.  We really do carry the badge on your behalf.

6.  Bring it from downtown, not DC.  Policing in a democratic society must be under scrutiny. But let’s do this examination together.  And Let’s do it locally whenever possible.  Washington DC has plenty to do without meddling in the most important function of local government.  We want to server better, not cater to a voting block or approval ratings.

About the author:  Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy. He is retired as Chief of Police for Adams State University in Colorado.

Armored Vehicles For a New World of Threats




While most agree there is no feasible way of totally securing public safety in a free and open society, there is not more than ever a desire to provide law enforcement agencies with the latest and most effective safety procedures and equipment.  At the top of the list of “must-haves” is the tactical armored vehicle like the BearCat, made by Pittsfield, Mass.-based Lenco Industries, Inc.

More than a dozen BearCats were deployed by multiple state, local, and regional agencies at the Boston Marathon scene, including one that took part in the final dramatic scene in which the BearCat climbed a 24-inch retaining wall and then used a hydraulic battering ram on the vehicle to remove the tarp covering the boat in which the suspect had been hiding.

During the bombing incident, the armored vehicles served multiple purposes, from overwatch and cover during the door-to-door search, to transporting large numbers of officers.  The vehicles’ features and interoperability made them especially useful in the densely populated multi-agency scene manned by different groups and equipment.  At numerous debriefings and discussions after the incident, the desirability of having tactical armored vehicles available are stressed time and again, and their features called absolutely essential to today’s law enforcement.

Tactical armored vehicles provide hard cover and fast and efficient officer transportation.  Used over the last decade for SWAT operations, including executing search warrants on high-risk individuals, drug raids, barricaded gunmen callouts, and hostage rescue, the BearCat provides a much greater level of protection than tactical shields and offers a very large area of hard cover.  These features are a big part of the reason they were used so successfully at the Boston marathon incident.

For example, the Massachusetts State Police was called in after the initial shooting in Watertown, arriving at 3a.m.  Trooper John Suyemoto explained that the State Police used one of its three BearCats as its base of operations during the daylong area search around the vehicle abandoned by the fleeing suspect.  The BearCat also served as the delivery platform to investigates a series of civilian call-ins about people matching the suspect’s description.

“We spent the day responding to more than 10 different calls around Watertown and Cambridge,”  Trooper Suyemoto said.  “We cleared out large office buildings and even responded to a report of another suicide bomber.  The truck was helpful for handling these types of situations, where we had incomplete or incorrect information that must be investigated before it can be discounted.  The BearCat allowed us to observe situations in general safety inside the truck.”

The BearCat was also used as part of the 27-person Nashua, N.H. Police Department’s Special Reaction Team, which was called in to assist with a door-to-door search in the Watertown mall area.  Linking up with the 50-person North Easter Massachusetts law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) SWAT team, Sergeant Joseph Fay’s team provided backup, along with units from other nearby County agencies.  The area was broken up into quadrants and zones and each team was assigned certain areas to clear.

Sergeant Fay explained that the BearCat was invaluable during the incident, providing better hard cover than shields in the event they had to engage with a suspect.  It was also excellent for transporting large numbers of SWAT officers. “Some were loaded on the outside rails, which let us quickly transport large numbers to location and deploy quickly.”

The daylong search for suspects over an entire city block area was an unusual callout because it involved such a large geographical area, and Fay noted how the availability of the BearCat armored vehicles allowed a key change in tactics.  “During the mission, we pushed the BearCat down the center to provide overwatch  and cover while officers went door to door.”

He explained that in a mobile operation, you are constantly moving and must provide cover for the exposed team members.  There is no other way to do that without a vehicle, because the operation constantly changes location.  In a more traditional operation, snippers and marksmen provide that kind of cover, but in this situation the event was moving, so officers lost the ability to deploy a sniper in a single area.

“Looking back on the situation, I feel that the presence of the BearCat was the only way to address this rolling situation.  It is the only piece of equipment that can provide such a large area of hard cover,” Fay said.  He noted that the vehicle did what it was supposed to, offering shooting ports, with turrets providing overwatch.  In addition, the hydraulic ramming arm shielded the team, allowing officers to work the mechanical ram from behind cover to avoid injury.

According to State Trooper Suyemoto, the BearCat’s battering ram played a crucial role in the successful end to the operation.  He explained that in the late afternoon, shortly after authorities allowed people to move around the area, a homeowner discovered that his boat had been compromised.  He called 9-1-1 and the police deployed to that residence.

Trooper Suyemoto picked up the story.  “We were at the command post on Arsenal Street and drove over, getting down in the area of the truck’s maneuverable G3 platform.  Then, upon confirmation by a helicopter with thermal imaging that the subject was inside the boat, we mounted the 15-foot hydraulic ram arm on the front of the truck; thankfully, mounting the arm is a relatively quick and easy operation.  We drove the truck up to the boat, which was difficult because we had to mount a 24-inch-high stone wall.  Luckily, the BearCat was up to the task.  It took a couple of attempts, but we reached the top of the wall and drove up the lawn.

We got the truck positioned properly, and proceeded to remove the tarp covering the boat by moving the arm back and forth down the length of the boat to punch holes in the shrink wrap.  We could then remove it and see inside.  I can tell you that it felt very good to be in a safe position within that armored car.  There is very little someone armed with a regular rifle or handgun could do to us with the cover provided by the BearCat.”

Tactical armored vehicles are typically built on heavy duty commercial truck chassis, fitted with NIJ IV rifle-resistant armor and a four-wheel drive system.  They carry up to 12 people.  Armor may vary among vehicles, but the BearCat is always built with Mil-Spec steel armor plate certified to defeat multi-hit attacks from 7.62 AP/.50 Cal BMG rounds.  Ceilings and floors provide enhanced blast and fragmentation protection and ballistic glass windows also offer multi-hit defeat.

The vehicles come in two- and four-door variants; IED blast seats are also available.  They feature a 360-degree rotating zero-gravity roof hatch and an optional armored cupola for added ballistic protection.  Dual rear-mounted air conditioning  and heat ensures crew comfort, and a custom center console and computer equipment designed to fleet and central command specifications guarantee interoperability.  Kevlar ballistic skip round shields protect downed personnel during officer rescue missions.  The ballistic blankets can also be used as stretchers.

Scores of other options can be used to tailor the vehicle to particular needs, including a front and rear strobe, siren/PA system, backup camera, on-board contained air, and long-range acoustic device (LRAD) for crowd control.  According to Massachusetts State Trooper Suyemoto, “The LRAD and the thermal camera with pan and zoom capability mounted over the driver’s head were absolutely invaluable features.  We spent the day going on calls and the LRAD and camera system made an extremely safe platform in which to work, especially considering the evolving, fluid situation.”

Mission-specific equipment is available for SWAT, medical evacuation, bomb technicians, anti-riot, and dignitary and VIP transportation.  The newest options, designed especially for barricaded gunmen callouts, include the hydraulic RAM bar that extends 17 feet and elevates 12 feet.  As mentioned the hydraulic ramming arm was definitely an instrumental piece of equipment at the Boston marathon incident.  Another newer option, the Lenco gas injector unit (GIU) can be mounted at the end of the arm; chemical munitions can be deployed through a perforated spike controlled by a switch on the vehicle’s center console at a safe distance from the suspect.

Armored vehicles are an equipment extension for ballistic shields used for entries into homes and for officer protection.  “We want the least amount of damage possible to people,” said an officer from the Boston Police Department’s mobile operations patrol (MOP), who asked not to be identified.  “Tactical armored vehicles like the BearCat are made to withstand small arms fire and small explosives to get wounded officers or civilians out of an area safely.”

The officer explained that the BPD deployed two armored vehicles during the incident.  Armored vehicles like the BearCat protect access and egress of officers who go in as part of rescue parties, or allow officers to safely enter a scene–delivering the team safely to and from a location is one of their key missions.  In Boston, the BearCat is typically used for securing an area, or where there are unknowns.  The armored vehicle provides cover and concealment from armed felons and is most often used for warrant services.

Aside from the high-visibility Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath, armored vehicles have already won an important part in many law enforcement agency arsenals.  Take the case of Pittsfield, Mass. where the armored vehicle has quickly become a part of the tactics used in all city pre-planned or other high-risk drug operations, barricaded subject calls, and in support of protective details.

According to Michael Wynn, Pittsfield Police Chief, the city frequently puts the armored vehicles in close proximity to the venue as a mobile bunker.  This means, instead of using evacuate and lock down, and then move out under cover.  They may park the vehicle and put a tent over it to conceal it and then use it if necessary.

“The BearCat is a quiet as a truck, and we use it almost any time we go on a raid.  We would rather have it and not need it than have to call back for it,” Wynn said.  “We can drive into a hot zone and we can conduct an officer rescue and it adds a whole new dimension when the team can approach a target.”

The team’s capabilities have been greatly increased by the ability to ram a door and introduce gas without gunfire.  “Also, you can’t underestimate the ‘Wow’ factor–recently we simply had to drive up to a suspect’s front lawn and announce that he was surrounded.  Minimizing the risk to the team by not having to execute cannot be overstated.”

Many of the officers present at the Boston Marathon scene focused on the importance of team training on the use and limitations of armored vehicles prior to putting the vehicles in service.  In addition, they emphasized that training should incorporate EMS and EODs (explosive ordnance divisions) so that all parties can work together.  ” Everyone has to be able to work as a team,” the BPD officer said.  “Each component is a building block and each officer must know what these vehicles can and cannot do and how they can and cannot be used.”

For example, BPD incorporated training on tactical armored vehicles during Urban Shield Boston, a continuous 24-hour exercise, during which first responders were deployed to and rotated through various training scenarios.  This is the largest exercise ever conducted in Boston, involving more than 600 emergency responders from 50 agencies.

In the opinion of the BPD officer, other than a full armored vehicle like a tank (which most law enforcement officials do not think would be accepted in most U.S. cities), a tactical armored vehicle like the BearCat will provide law enforcement with the greatest help to get in and solve a problem.  “In my view, it is better safe than sorry.  We need a vehicle like this for aiding and assisting officers.  They are not tanks and are not going to block explosions of solve all the problems, but they are a huge help for aiding and assisting officers on the scene.”

Armored rescue vehicles provide a huge measure of peace of mind for officers who arrive on scene and may not know exactly what they are getting into.  They can aid and assist getting officers in and out, getting wounded parties in and out, or providing cover.  They certainly proved their worth in one of the nation’s most serious terrorist incidents in recent memory, and are considered as essential piece of equipment to own by most law enforcement agencies around the U.S.

State Trooper Suyemoto summed it up this way:  ” The BearCat did everything we asked it to do, including driving up and over a wall, and it performed very well.  We pretty much used every piece of gear we got with it except the gas injector.  It provided a high level of safety to our guys and without it our next step would have been removing the shrink wrap on the boat by hand.  Having an armored car made that potentially dangerous situation much safer.  We don’t often get equipment that does what we want it to do, so when we do, we are happy to sing its praises.”



Opening Gallery Now Available

The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department is pleased to announce the addition of the Opening Gallery which highlights events throughout its Opening Day Ceremony on March 1, 2014. It is located under the “About the Department” main menu link and here.

Building Gallery Now Available

The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department is pleased to announce the addition of the Building Gallery which highlights the collective effort Berkeley County applied to refurbishing the old Martins Grocery Market into a spacious home for the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department. It is located under our “About the Department” main menu link and here.

Celebrating the Success of 40 years of Neighborhood Watch

By Robbi Woodson, USAon Watch, National Neighborhood Watch

     The National Sheriff’s Association has supported local law enforcement in their efforts to build and encourage local community participation through Neighborhood Watch for the last 40 years.  Using the pillars of observation and reporting groups throughout America, Neighborhood Watch has reduced crime and built stronger neighborhoods.  Currently, more than 25,000 watch groups are active with greater than a million volunteers covering the U.S. according to our USA on Watch database.  The key to the success of Neighborhood Watch is the continued willingness of neighbors to help each other build a better community.

In 2002, NSA partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to expand the program to incorporate terrorism awareness, emergency preparedness, and all hazards traiing into the mission.  An expanded mission gave way to an expanded title for the national program, USAonWatch-National Neighborhood Watch Program.  Time-tested practices such as “eyes-and-ears” training and target-hardening techniques continue to be at the core of the program.  As watch groups continue to grow, the roles of citizens have become more multifaceted and tailored to local needs.

The basic principles behind the Neighborhood Watch program have been ingrained in much of society for hundreds of years. Americans have a need and willingness to give back to their community, what better way than to start where they live.  “Often groups and volunteers are spurred to action as a direct result of the impact crime had on their own sense of safety” according to Chris Tutko, Director of USAonWatch Neighborhood Watch.  He went on to say “it is important to people that they have a sense of safety in their homes and neighborhoods which is why groups are started.”  The program empowers citizens to develop vital community relations when crime or natural disaster has impacted a neighborhood, which is why more than 5,000 local law enforcement agencies actively support the program.

Building on the successes demonstrated by Neighborhood Watch groups, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany are just a few of the countries with active programs like the U.S.  As a direct result of the programs wide reach and notability, the U.S. Military has worked hard to incorporate the idea of Neighborhood Watch in the community outreach efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite changes in society over the past 40 years, Neighborhood Watch-USAonWatch is one concept that has remained strong throughout the years.  The longevity of Neighborhood Watch is attributed to the fact that the program is flexible to suit the needs of the community, and can be adapted to any environment (e.g., Cab Watch, Campus Watch, Ranch Watch, and Marina Watch).

Every week in local newspapers across they country there is a report how a burglary or robbery suspect has been caught as a result of important tips provided by watch volunteers.  How that information is communicated has changed a great deal over the last 40 years.  Not to mention, communities have grown along with the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement.  Now, agencies are communicating more and more with the communities they serve via Facebook and Twitter.  Instant pictures are taken via Smart phones when something suspicious is seen.  Reports of suspicious activities can now be made via agency apps that are easily downloaded.  Totally gone are the days of phone trees to communicate with your volunteers.  However, the online Neighborhood Watch community has been born and continues to develop each day.  The role of the National program is to provide you with useful and helpful information to grow that communication.  Currently, offers Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages to connect groups with each other and provide vital crime prevention information.

While the online community has grown and continues to grow, NSA creates content and resources to assist Sheriff’s Offices and Police Departments.  Providing important in-person training in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance via NSA’s Neighborhood Watch Toolkit has allowed us to train more than 3,500 officers/deputies and more than 1,500 community leaders over the last five years.  The Neighborhood Watch Toolkit Training includes topics such as pandemic flu, older adult safety, bullying, foreclosure and PACT360.  While in-person trainings are critical to build important networking connections between deputies and officers, the national program is leveraging current social media to open up our training materials to additional agencies and watch leaders. Utilizing the USAonWatch webinar series started this past January, important program topics and issues are being presented in a timely manner.  For those who are unable to attend the webinars, as of June, content is recorded and uploaded to the USAonWatch YouTube Channel.

Another exciting addition to the national program was the launch of the USAonWatch Academy Watch in May.  What is Academy Watch?  It is an on-demand self-paced training series of six important topics to a Neighborhood Watch program.  Topics cover everything from an overview of the program to strategic planning.  The self-paced training materials have been directly taken from the USAonWatch Toolkit and are provided online in both English and Spanish.


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