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Safer Ohio Oct. - Dec. 2017

OSHP Special Response Team - Saving Lives through Skills, Abilities and Equipment.

On the morning of Oct. 13, 2017, Capt. Brian Charles and Staff Lt. Scott Demmitt, commanders of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s (OSHP) Special Response Team (SRT), were overseeing a high-stakes mission from the SRT headquarters in Columbus. A suspect, believed to have murdered four people, led troopers on a manhunt in Lawrence County in the far southern part of the state. SRT troopers, called in by local law enforcement to help, had been searching wooded areas for the suspect for two days.

Surrounded by briefing documents, mission reports and intermittent cell phone interruptions to advise OSHP management on the latest updates, an extremely dangerous suspect was on the loose, with state troopers and other law enforcement partners combing the region for him.

Later that same morning, SRT troopers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident. He was then turned over to the county sheriff’s office.

Mission accomplished.

Established in 1991, this 29-member, full-time tactical unit responds to statewide missions ranging from high-risk warrant service to barricade situations, incident containment, drug raid confiscations and even weapons of mass destruction technician-level response. The unit serves at no cost to the requesting agency, and is the statewide response team for the Ohio Homeland Security Emergency Response Program.

The team’s primary role is serving arrest warrants though. They do arrest warrants for OSHP posts on a daily basis. SRT is also connected with the U.S. Marshals Service. At least one SRT trooper is provided daily to six different Marshals offices located in Toledo, Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron/Canton, Dayton and Columbus.

Many suspects wanted on Ohio warrants who are apprehended in other states get personally escorted back to the Buckeye state by SRT troopers because of the relationships SRT has with federal partners.

“Why do we get called? It’s because of our skills, ability and equipment,” said Capt. Brian Charles, SRT executive officer.

In the last two years, manhunts and search warrant requests have significantly increased. In 2016, SRT provided arrest warrant services 3,499 times, up from 2,047 times the previous year."

Capt. Charles says the increase in search warrants is directly connected to drug trafficking in Ohio. The same trend reported daily in newscasts regarding increases in heroin and fentanyl is seen by SRT through an increase in search warrant requests.

Assisting other agencies has been a foundational aspect of SRT since its inception. That’s also where good working relationships are fostered with other agencies. In 2016, SRT worked with 64 different federal, state, county and local agencies.

SRT also assists the OSHP’s Mobile Field Force at large-scale events like the Republican National Convention in Cleveland during July 2016 (Safer Ohio Magazine coverage on the Republican National Convention can be found in the July-September 2016 edition and on the Mobile Field Force in the July-September 2017 edition).

Training leads to success

The National Tactical Officers Association’s (NTOA) best practices recommend that a full-time tactical team trains 25 percent of the time. SRT accomplishes that by training together two consecutive days each month.

The team is also divided into three squads, generally covering the Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo/Dayton areas. Each squad trains one additional day per week on the same skills highlighted in the main team training to further reinforce those key areas.

There are also specialty units within SRT: sniper-observer team; robot team; medic group; unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); explosive breachers and rappelling. Those separate entities train monthly within each skill-set.

In addition to all that training, there is specialized training for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) environments. Every SRT trooper is trained on how to handle a WMD environment during a tactical situation. It is critical for troopers to know how to work with personal protection equipment when they encounter a methamphetamine lab or fentanyl.

Outside training groups may also be called to discuss new strategies and tactics. Units are sent outside of Ohio for training, such as NTOA training. In June2016, for the first-time, the entire SRT was sent out of state to train with the U.S. Secret Service in preparation for the Republican National Convention.

Annually, members of the SRT also work with the Ohio Tactical Officers Association to receive the most current tactical training and certifications from across the country.

Handling extremely difficult situations

In February 2015, SRT troopers teamed up with U.S. Marshals searching for a known gang member who was terrorizing Columbus residents. The suspect had been involved in multiple shootings and murders as well as narcotics distribution.

The search eventually led to a Columbus apartment building. During a subsequent stand-off, the suspect pulled out a MAC-10 sub-machine gun and fired multiple rounds at officers. SRT troopers safely rescued an adult female and an eight-year old autistic boy from the apartment building.

“Every day we knowingly put our people in harm’s way,” Capt. Charles said. “Our guys do great work and I am confident in their abilities. The public hopefully appreciates the officers are out there doing this not just for the citizens of Ohio, but for the entire nation. Maybe there is somebody we arrest today that could have gone to another state and committed a violent crime.”

As Capt. Charles says, SRT’s mission statement is simple – To Save Lives.

SRT troopers take the mission statement to heart. Their confidence in every aspect of their job is impossible to ignore.

“It’s a group of individuals that are dedicated and trained to handle the most extreme difficult situations,” said Staff Lt. Scott Demmitt, SRT tactical commander. “These are situations that are beyond the capabilities of a normal road officer. We have the training, the expertise, the equipment and utilize the technology to bring about a safe conclusion.”

It’s very high-tech

State-of-the-art equipment and modern-day technology, purchased through drug forfeiture accounts, plays a big role in the operational capacity and success of the SRT. Staff Lt. Demmitt noted the technology goes a long way toward saving lives and bringing about safe resolutions to incidents in the field.

“It’s not like Hollywood and the movies where SWAT guys blow doors off and go rushing through like ninja warriors. We want to bring about a safe conclusion and hopefully everyone comes out unhurt,” Staff Lt. Demmitt said.

The team has two armored vehicles. One is equipped with a mobile, adjustable ramp system, which gives troopers capabilities to get on top of a building or the second floor of a hotel without having to make entry.

SRT also has a reconnaissance robot that is utilized to search rooms without an officer having to make entry. The robot is equipped with a camera so troopers can see inside without being in harm’s way. In some instances, the utilization of a robot led to a successful, peaceful resolution without having to put an officer into a dangerous situation.

The team also has two iCOR robots that are utilized to gain entry, open doors, communicate with suspects, deliver products like throw phones or food and even deploy less-than-lethal munitions. An iCOR robot can climb steps, go over rough terrain and even drag an injured person to safety."

SRT responded to a request from the Mansfield Police Department in April 2015 because of a barricade situation in a residential area. The Mansfield SWAT is a joint-agency team and they recognized they needed assistance. SRT provided assistance that included the iCOR robot during the two-day barricade.

The suspect fired more than 80 rounds at law enforcement officers and indiscriminately into a neighborhood. SRT units were forced to return fire, launched tear gas into the house and even flooded the basement with water to force the suspect out. During that incident, the iCOR robots were sent inside the house and were shot multiple times by the suspect. At that point, the Columbus Police Department’s SWAT was requested with their Armor vehicle equipped with a breaching tool, which was used to breach the front of the house.

SRT uses pole cameras, which allow troopers to visually inspect into high places. On several occasions, these pole cameras have been used to locate suspects hiding inside ceilings.

UAVs are a new addition to the SRT equipment line-up. A large drone is used to search outdoors, such as over a cornfield or above a tree line. SRT recently purchased smaller drones utilized for flying indoors through a house or building to locate suspects. These smaller drones are equipped with a camera so troopers can see inside. They also have a crash-avoidance feature so the drone won’t crash into walls.

SRT's drone aircraft can be used to search outdoors, such as over a cornfield or above a tree line."

“It’s very high tech,” Staff Lt. Demmitt said. “We have UAVs that are capable of flying inside a house. You have to use the technology that’s available because if you don’t, you’re behind the game.”

SRT troopers also frequently use thermal imaging technology to see heat signatures and a variety of night vision equipment during manhunts.

One such usage came when the convicted murderer from an active-shooter incident at Chardon High School, along with two other inmates, escaped from a prison in Lima. SRT troopers searched woods and residential areas and apprehended the escapees.

From a cow barn to an elite tactical team

In 1991, the team started training in London, Ohio, at the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction grounds in a cow barn. That’s right – the first SRT training for making tactical building entries took place in a cow barn.

It’s safe to say the team has come a long way since then. Today, SRT uses non-lethal training ammunition linked with video systems so everyone can see how the team is moving through structures and how to improve every aspect of its tactical operations.

Both Capt. Charles and Staff Lt. Demmitt have been with SRT since its inception in 1991. They are most proud of the team’s growth.

Originally constituted on an as-needed basis, SRT became a full-time, full-service tactical unit in August 2010. This move was due to the increase in calls for service, the ever-changing criminal environment and the increasing requests from outside agencies for mutual-aid assistance.

“Being on the team is different than working at a typical post because it is very team-oriented. It just has to be that way,” Staff Lt. Demmitt said.

Teamwork and inter-agency work are hallmarks of the OSHP’s SRT.

For example, SRT troopers who were working with the U.S. Marshal Task Force on the north side of Columbus went to make an arrest at a local hotel were fired upon by the suspect. With the assistance of the Columbus Police Department SWAT team, the suspect was eventually talked into peacefully surrendering.

Lives saved. Mission accomplished."
Ohio Assists with Hurricane Response and Recovery

Ohio Assists with Hurricane Response and Recovery

Ohio has been an active participant in both the response and recovery phases, providing assistance for several of the states and territories impacted by the series of hurricanes this fall. In addition to sending personnel on various missions to the affected regions, Ohio’s efforts include the coordination of state and local resources in response to the Houston area, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA) has coordinated support through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). EMAC, a state-level mutual aid-type system, establishes a legal foundation for sharing resources between states. The affected state or territory makes a specific request for resources, such as a swift-water rescue team or emergency managers to help provide additional staffing at an emergency operations center. An assisting state then provides a detailed response based on its resources. Once conditions for providing assistance have been accepted by the affected state, the terms constitute a legally-binding agreement.

Ohio EMA has worked diligently in coordination with the Ohio National Guard to fill EMAC requests for “boots on the ground” assistance in both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Additionally, Ohio EMA is providing guidance on how interested persons can assist the recovery efforts of hurricane survivors. At the request of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Ohio EMA is discouraging the unsolicited collection and shipment of goods that have not been pre-identified as a need and where arrangements for acceptance in the impacted areas have not been arranged. Unsolicited goods may burden local organizations’ ability to meet survivors’ confirmed needs, drawing away valuable labor, transportation and warehouse space.

Financial contributions are the most efficient method of donating, according to FEMA. Funds allow responding organizations the most flexibility in obtaining the needed resources at the correct time and moves money into the local economy to help businesses recover.

To find a trusted organization, visit the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) website at nvoad.org, which vets voluntary, faith and community-based organizations active during disasters. Ohio VOAD also has information at ohvoad.communityos.org.

Ohio EMA Employees in Action

Administrative Officer Jerry Mullins deployed for a week to FEMA’s Region IV emergency operations center when Hurricane Irma struck Florida.

The Fiscal Branch’s Justin Sutherland deployed to Texas to assist the Texas Division of Emergency Management with managing resource requests and offers of assistance for Hurricane Harvey.

Disaster Recovery Branch employees Laura Adcock-Elder and Brock Metzger deployed to Florida to help local officials with damage assessments.

Todd Barstow and Ann Lechner stayed in Ohio, but spent two weeks providing virtual support by matching Puerto Rico’s requests to assisting states’ offers of assistance.

Fiscal Chief Teresa Peters and Senior Analyst Adam Pletcher were deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands for to help with EMAC requests.

Damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Damage in U.S. Virgin Islands
Damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Damage in U.S. Virgin Islands
Nuisance Abatements Helping Communities

Nuisance Abatements Helping Communities

In order to improve the quality of life within neighborhoods, many Ohio communities are turning to nuisance abatements. The root cause for a nuisance abatement are major violations of drug trafficking, prostitution, EBT (food stamp) trafficking, and underage sales of alcohol.

Over the years, the Ohio Investigative Unit has assisted municipal governments with nuisance abatements as they pertain to locations selling alcohol or trafficking in drugs and food stamps. Agents often work alongside city and county attorneys and prosecutors to build a case on an establishment, with or without a liquor permit, that has become a public safety hazard for the local residents.

Recently in Montgomery County, agents conducted a nine-month investigation into prostitution, food stamp trafficking and drug sales at adult entertainment venues in the area. Through the investigation, agents contacted the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office and requested they consider filing nuisance abatements on the locations.

Throughout the investigation, agents worked with prosecutors, sharing information pertaining to both administrative and criminal violations taking place inside the clubs. Agents ultimately filed 140 criminal and 166 administrative charges.

Immediately following the execution of search warrants on three clubs, prosecutors shut down one location after filing a motion for a preliminary injunction. On October 31, a Montgomery County judge granted prosecutors an injunction on the adult entertainment club as a public nuisance. The business will be closed for one year.

Due to the joint enforcement and prosecution against the adult entertainment establishment, the community is safer because the rampant drug trafficking and prostitution are no longer taking place.

Communities looking for assistance with nuisance abatements may contact agents at #677.

Division of Emergency Medical Services Awards Supplemental Grants

Division of Emergency Medical Services Awards Supplemental Grants

Ohio Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director Melvin House and Deputy Director Robert Wagoner traveled around the state to award grant funding to four fire departments as part of the Ohio Division of EMS FY 2017-2018 Supplemental Grant Program. This is the second year for the program, which was created to assist Ohio EMS agencies with the purchase of costly EMS equipment. Award recipients for this cycle were:

Pickaway Twp. Fire Department, $14,230
Corning Volunteer Fire Department, $29,995
Roseville Fire Department, $30,000
Southeastern Hardin Ambulance Service, $30,000
Ohio Receives $208,080 for Anti-trafficking

Ohio Receives $208,080 for Anti-trafficking

The Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) was awarded $208,080 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Look Beneath the Surface Regional Anti-Trafficking Program grant help Ohio communities identify and respond to human trafficking.

The Look Beneath the Surface Regional Anti-Trafficking Program is an annual grant opportunity to build the capacity of local anti-trafficking networks, organize public awareness efforts and identify victims of trafficking through a formal partnership between OCJS and four core regional coalition partners (CRCPs) in Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo and St. Clairsville.

Each of the CRCPs have identified local outreach partners in their communities who assist in carrying out activities in the grant. These activities include: conducting direct outreach to communities at-risk of human trafficking; screening potential human trafficking victims and refer them for services; providing training and technical assistance to strategic stakeholders and community professionals; providing coalition building opportunities to Ohio counties not currently served by an anti-trafficking coalition; and strategically disseminating English and translated public awareness materials.

The project period began Sept. 2017 and will end Sept. 2020, with grant funding being distributed in the amount of $208,080 per year for three years. To learn more about the state’s anti-trafficking efforts, please visit humantrafficking.ohio.gov.

ODPS Hosts Annual Public Information Officer Symposium

ODPS Hosts Annual Public Information Officer Symposium

In September, the Ohio Department of Public Safety hosted its annual Public Information Officer (PIO) Symposium, bringing together PIOs from across the state to network and gain awareness on trends in the field of media relations and communications.

The symposium began with presentations by Ohio State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Colonel Michael Black and Cleveland Division of Police Sergeant Jennifer Ciaccia, who discussed the challenges and successes of the 2016 Cleveland Republican National Convention.

Melanie Amato, a PIO with the Ohio Department of Health, provided insight about the state’s opiate epidemic and the local effects that are being seen in the national media.

A multi-topic panel discussion covered topics including social media trends and best practices, the First Amendment’s role in social media policies and record retention, brand development and ideas for distributing messaging on multiple media platforms.

Preparation for the 2018 PIO Symposium has already begun. For more information about the 2017 PIO Symposium, visit publicsafety.ohio.gov/pio/ohio_pio.

Role of a Security Guard and Private Investigator Training Course

Role of a Security Guard and Private Investigator Training Course

Private Investigator Security Guard Services (PISGS), a component of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, launched its first-ever online training course. The course, “Role of a Security Guard and Private Investigator,” outlines the duties and responsibilities of security guards and private investigators under Ohio law. It also covers the importance of good communication and public relations skills, character and ethics, as well as proper appearance. For more information, visit pisgs.ohio.gov.

Here’s what people are saying about the training course:

It was great training. We look forward to using it for our security staff! It was very relevant to the tasks we perform on a daily basis.”
I took the course to evaluate it as an additional component in our security officer training program. The content and the way it is presented is outstanding; it covered many of the daily tasks and requirements of a security officer and investigator. The length of the session is perfect, I was anxious to move along and it kept me engaged. I feel our existing and new hire security team members will benefit greatly in taking this online training, I am adding it to our curriculum.”
I really liked the online course and it was very well put together and easy to follow. I think companies may need to implement this in their orientation process. It would be a great tool.”
Wow. Great! It was informative. It was clear.”
Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Relations Advisory Board Meets in Cincinnati

Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Relations Advisory Board Meets in Cincinnati

The Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Relations Advisory Board (Ohio Collaborative) held its last meeting of 2017 at the University of Cincinnati on Oct. 19.

The Ohio Collaborative shared progress to date, discussed the “Change Starts Here” public awareness campaign and provided an opportunity to hear from members of the community.

A diverse crowd of Cincinnatians attended and offered encouraging and critical feedback on community-police relations in the city and state. A healthy dialogue was generated along with potential remedies and conversations continuing with attendees and board members after the meeting.

The community-law enforcement advisory panel developed – for the first time in Ohio history – state standards that can help guide Ohio law enforcement agencies. More than 500 agencies, employing over 27,000 officers in all 88 counties and representing about 80 percent of all law enforcement officers in Ohio, are either certified or in the process of becoming certified by meeting standards for the use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring.

The Ohio Collaborative also established standards on community engagement, law enforcement telecommunicator training and body worn cameras. A report listing law enforcement agencies that have and have not adopted those standards will be published by March 31, 2018. The state has partnered with the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police to help certify Ohio’s nearly 960 law enforcement agencies on the certification process.

To assist agencies in adopting the Ohio Collaborative’s policies, a free policy management software system and user guide with clear step-by-step instructions for how to create, assign, monitor and maintain electronic agency compliance policies were created. This free tool allows all agencies the same opportunity to digitize department and Collaborative policies for easier access, storage, communication, and efficiency, and assists law enforcement with ensuring and continuing compliance. The software can also be used to review current department policies. Contact edburkhammer@dps.ohio.gov for more information.

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Case Comes Full Circle after 23 Years

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Case Comes Full Circle after 23 Years

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Investigator and retired Cincinnati Police Officer Charlie Beaver received a call from Hamilton County Adult Parole that a parolee, Dante Baker, (who was incarcerated from 1993-2016 for murder) needed to obtain an Ohio identification card (ID). Mr. Baker said he wanted to start over, but neither he nor his mother had any documentation showing his Social Security number, which he needed to obtain an Ohio ID.

Upon review, Investigator Beaver discovered he was the homicide investigator assigned to case that led to Mr. Baker’s incarceration 23 years ago. Investigator Beaver located old arrest records which provided Mr. Baker’s Social Security number, and after coordinating Mr. Baker’s fingerprinting, it was determined to be a match.

Because of Investigator Beaver’s efforts, Mr. Baker was able to obtain his Ohio ID. This case highlights some of the work performed in the BMV Investigations Section and is a testament to Investigator Beaver, who went above and beyond to assist a customer.

Merick Named Secretary of National Emergency Management Association

Merick Named Secretary of National Emergency Management Association

Sima Merick, Ohio Emergency Management Agency’s (Ohio EMA) executive director, was named secretary of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). NEMA is the professional association of emergency management directors from all 50 states, eight U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. NEMA provides a critical link to members of Congress and senior leaders in the federal government who make key decisions on important emergency management and homeland security issues.

Merick has 31 years of public safety experience, including 21 with Ohio EMA. She was elected to her new post at the NEMA Annual Meeting this fall in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is a member of three NEMA committees (Mitigation, Response and Recovery, and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact) as well as several NEMA working groups. Merick sees her role with NEMA as critical to ensuring Ohio has a voice that is heard at the federal level and helping keep Ohio in the loop with how disaster-prone states are protecting their residents so Ohio EMA can be better prepared to help protect Ohioans.

Ohio State’s “Other” Winning Team

Ohio State’s “Other” Winning Team

For seven game days every football season, the stadium area of The Ohio State University becomes the fifth largest city in Ohio. A dedicated team of public safety professionals from the university partnering with city, county, state and federal agencies make it their game plan that, “everyone coming for the game returns home safely,” said Robert Armstrong, Ohio State’s director of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention. And with that game plan in mind, Ohio State Chief of Police Craig Stone said the public safety team goal is for home football games to be a safe, family-friendly environment and to that goal his team is, “undefeated!”

The Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) is a critical partner on that team according to Chief Stone. ODPS divisions that provide support on game day include the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP), Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU), Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) and Ohio Homeland Security (OHS). With more than 100,000 fans and visitors on campus for each football Saturday, Ohio State relies on its many partners to enhance safety for everyone.

“We simply couldn’t do it alone,” Chief Stone said. “We rely on our city, county, state and federal partners to provide the personnel, resources, assets and specialized assistance that we need to be successful.”

OSHP provides a uniform presence inside and outside of the stadium necessary for traffic and access control, safe travel for large crowds of pedestrian traffic and security.

“The state troopers along with police officers from The Ohio State University, Columbus Division of Police, Columbus State Community College, and deputies from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office allow us to provide a very visible show of safety forces that help prevent problems,” Chief Stone said.

OIU agents and staff from OHS are essential in providing a steady flow of information to the command staff, “all of which is necessary to help identify and in many cases help prevent problems,” Chief Stone said.

“Our relationship with Ohio EMA is invaluable,” Armstrong said. “Our emergency management resources (at Ohio State) are limited. It is reassuring to know that Ohio EMA is there and ready to assist with resources and incident support should the need arise.”

Ohio EMA provides an executive team member for each game along with a direct line of communication from the Ohio State Emergency Operations Center to Ohio EMA’s 24/7 Watch Office.

“We are pleased with our partnership with Ohio State’s emergency management team,” said Sima Merick, executive director of Ohio EMA. “Ohio EMA stands ready to support Ohio State and Franklin County EMA with whatever resource or information requests they might have. These events are huge for Ohio and we are committed to doing our part to support a safe experience for everyone.”

Emergency management is often the unseen and overlooked piece of the public safety puzzle, taking an “all-hazards” approach that includes natural hazards. Armstrong explained that planning for all types of emergencies paid off during the 2016 season.

“We experienced severe weather with lightning in the area of the stadium,” said Armstrong. “We executed the plans we have in place to shelter everyone until the danger had passed.”

These plans included pre-scripted messages for the public address announcer, pre-planned messaging and graphics for the scoreboards, and pre-planned provisions for the safe sheltering of fans in the concourse areas of the stadium.

“All members of the public safety team knew the plan and we successfully sheltered folks,” he said.

Ohio State is constantly reviewing its public safety strategies for game day, and they are open to making changes when needed.

“One example would be our new bag policy,” said Chief Stone. (In 2016, Ohio State initiated a “no bag policy” at all Ohio State football games). “We need to be sure that we are taking every step we can to ensure the safety of everyone attending the game.”

Referring to recent events in Paris and Las Vegas, Chief Stone said, “We look at every one of these events that occur and then look at our operation to see if there is anything we should consider changing.”

Behind the scenes, the public safety team is supported by the Ohio State Emergency Operations Center, Communications Center and Command Post. The university hosts approximately three million visitors annually. Game day is just one example in which the university coordinates its efforts in a unified command that receives support from ODPS.

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