Training day

Published 9:34 pm Saturday, February 19, 2011

Police training: Suffolk police officers review ASP baton tactics at a Sleepy Hole training site on Wednesday. The session was part of the department’s first in-service training program.

Police move instruction in-house

Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett struggled with the person choking him on Wednesday, but eventually got the best of his attacker.

Later in the day, he and a couple dozen of his employees drew their “guns” on an Impala, ordering its occupant to throw her keys out of the car, get out and back slowly toward the officers.

The police department on Friday completed its first departmental in-service training program. The department’s 188 sworn officers are required to complete 40 hours of continuing training every two years, but previously they did it through the regional police academy or in online classes.

Suffolk police officers practice defensive tactics at TTT Sports Center on Wednesday.

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“The department recognizes it’s going to be incredibly important for us to develop our own in-service program that’s germane specifically to the city of Suffolk,” Maj. Larry Wilson said.

The regional and online programs provided overviews of topics every police officer needs to be familiar with, Chief Bennett said. But they did not cover Suffolk-specific issues.

“You have to take what they offer,” Bennett said. “You can’t customize it. Doing this, we can customize.”

Throughout the week, officers had the opportunity to earn their re-certifications on Tasers and firearms, refresh their defensive tactics and felony traffic-stop skills, learn about cultural diversity and workplace harassment and get a legal update from the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

About two dozen officers attended Wednesday’s training sessions, which included reviewing defensive tactics — hand-to-hand combat and the ASP baton — and a refresher course on how to conduct a felony traffic stop.

At a city-owned site on Sleepy Hole Road, the officers pulled two police cars behind an officer’s personal vehicle. They were told the driver of the personal vehicle was a suspect in a homicide in a neighboring jurisdiction within the past four hours. They then practiced ordering the driver to turn off the car, throw the keys out of the window, open the door using the outside handle and walk slowly backward.

They then reviewed how to locate weapons on the driver and search the rest of the car.

“In felony traffic stops, you don’t want to be running up to the vehicle,” Bennett said. “You want to bring them back to you. It minimizes exposure of the officers.” Maj. Wilson said the training is an important step in the department’s progress.

“Any deficiencies we may note in our officers, those can be corrected fairly quickly,” he said.

Bennett said the department plans to offer the in-service sessions regularly to ensure all officers are able to receive their 40 hours of training every two years from within the department.