Nov 30, 2010

Hands on learning: Carry a big stick

This is an ongoing blog where I shadow the 19 BLETP's cadets as they go through their MARC training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. You can start from the beginning by clicking here.

VASSALBORO – In addition to a few new distraction techniques (a fun move called the “skeleton yank” and a control technique commonly referred to as the “gooseneck”) the cadets learned some ways to use their collapsible batons in non-deadly force situations.
There are ways to use it for pain compliance while it’s collapsed and also using it for striking.

But in addition to learning how to use the batons (though, this didn’t count as a certification couse), the cadets also learned how to defend against someone using the weapons against them.

Nov 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

For all the men and women who cannot be home with their families, I give my heartfelt thanks. Please, be safe.

Nov 23, 2010

Hands on Learning: Putting it all together

This is an ongoing blog that shadows the 19th BLETP cadets as they participate in MARC training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. To start at the beginning, click here.

VASSALBORO – The cadets face off against different instructors and have to take them into custody. The instructors offer various levels of resistance, from compliance, non-violent non-compliance to full-blown physical resistance and fighting.

After each scenario the class deconstructs what happened. Instructors and cadets offer tips and advice on how the cadet could have done better and praise for techniques that worked well.

Afterwards, the cadets learned how to escape from headlocks, bearhugs and other dangerous holds.

Nov 19, 2010

Filling the ranks

Maine State Police bolster recruiting efforts

You can read the requirements for becoming a Maine State Trooper here.

By Katy England
edge staff writer

AUGUSTA - Twenty-five years ago, two classes of Maine State troopers graduated from their training and took to the roads to fight crime and keep Maine safe. Now, as many of them retire, there are many vacancies to fill in the Maine State Police, with more to come in the not-so-distant future.

Currently, the Maine State Police has 27 vacancies to fill. And as more troopers become eligible to retire, recruiters estimate there will be at least 40 more vacancies in the next two to three years. Because of this, the Maine State Police has stepped up its recruitment techniques in order to fill the gaps and ensure that they continue to deliver the services many have come to rely on from their agency.

"It's an exciting challenge to be able to fulfill the vacancies," said Tpr. Robert Burke, the training specialist for the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. "We're not looking to fill the ranks with just anybody, but with the most capable possible."

He noted that people looking to join the ranks shouldn't be looking at the Maine State Police as simply a career but a way of life. Those looking to be troopers need to hold themselves to the core values of integrity, compassion, excellence and fairness.

"We need the core principles in everything we do in order to serve the citizens of Maine at a level," he said. "If we can't maintain those high standards then we aren't doing our job."

He notes that there are many opportunities for troopers to specialize across the state by becoming a member of various specialized fields, including the tactical team, which handles high-risk situation; the bomb team, the dive team, criminal investigation unit and more.

Troops across the state now have two recruitment officers, who reach out to the community to educate them about becoming a trooper and keep in contact with applicants as they go through the lengthy hiring process that's involved.

"We're aggressively looking for new and unique ways to meet people and let them know we're hiring," said Burke.

He explained that the recruiters have received recruitment training and have different backgrounds (college graduates and troopers with military backgrounds). This allows the recruiters to relate to applicants with different backgrounds and assist them in process.

Trooper Greg Roy from Troop J in Ellsworth is one of the troop recruiters. He's been attending career fairs and coordinating ride alongs with interested applicants.

"There's no set mold [for Maine State Troopers]," said Roy. "The main thing is they need people who are hard workers and can work by themselves with little supervision. Genuine, honest, hardworking people. We have phenomenal troopers who built houses before [turning to law enforcement]."

He noted that there are many careers where people deal with stress, or personal time management. In the case of home building, the individuals have to manage their own time and have little supervision. Roy mentioned he had been speaking with an emergency room nurse who said she didn't have any background in law enforcement, but he pointed out that she could clearly deal with high-stress situations.

"If you have thought about a career in public service that is generally regarded as a lifestyle and not a job, I would highly recommend you look at the Maine State Police as an opportunity in law enforcement," said Burke.

For more information, visit Or call 207-877-8004

Nov 18, 2010

Calling all Warrior Women

John Wills is collecting stories from women in law enforcement

By Katy England
Maine Blues

John Wills is compiling stories from women in law enforcement for an upcoming anthology titled “Women Warriors: Stories from the Thin Blue Line.” Wills is looking for stories written by women in the law enforcement community, whether on the federal, state, county or municipality as well as tales from female dispatchers, chaplains, and prosecutors.
As for the type of story, Wills is looking for stories of all types as long as they're true: tales filled with humor, tragic life or death situations, war stories, strange tales, terrifying ordeals or stories filled with human emotion.
“I deal with training and officer survival and the columns I’ve written have gotten a lot of positive feedback. People like them, particularly women,” he said.
He asks that the length of the stories be capped at no more than 4,000 words with 1,500 to 3,000 being ideal. For a complete submission guidelines visit
“The stories that are going in are going to be of interest for [all] readers,” said Wills. “Not just for law enforcement, but the regular public will get insight into what the women in law enforcement do.”
The book is slated for publication in the summer or fall or 2011. Wills noted that he has received about 20 stories from women warriors around the country, but he’s looking for more.
Wills, a former Chicago police officer and retired FBI agent, has penned three novels and written more than 100 articles for police news sites, including and
If you are a woman warrior or know someone who is, this is a great opportunity to share your stories. For more information visit his website at You can also follow his blog Chicago Warriors.

Nov 17, 2010

Hands on learning: When ‘please step out of the vehicle’ doesn’t work

(Trooper Scott Hamilton demonstrates how to remove an non-compliant subject from a vehicle)

This is an ongoing blog where I shadow the 19th BLETP cadets as they take MARCs training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. To start at the beginning click here.

VASSALBORO – Getting people to move where you want can become complicated quickly, especially when they are already occupying a fairly confined space. Officers of the law come into contact with people in vehicles on a regular basis, and getting someone who isn’t compliant to leave the vehicle takes skill. The cadets learned different techniques to removing someone from a vehicle on Nov. 1.
Though, attempting to remove someone from a vehicle comes with risk. The cadets are taught the importance of being able to let go if the subject attempts to drive away and not to try to go hands-on if the vehicle is in motion.
Cadets also learned how to secure someone who is in custody in a seatbelt without putting themselves at risk.

The rest of the afternoon was spent practicing different scenarios where they had to place a non-compliant person in custody.

Nov 16, 2010

Bangor Police warn of scam

Courtesy of Sgt. Paul Edwards of the Bangor Police Department

BANGOR - The Bangor Police Department has taken at least three calls this morning from citizens stating that they were charged on their credit card accounts for purchases they never made. All of these were purchases made overseas. All of these victims never gave out their information at any time and have no idea how someone could have obtained it.

Police are asking people to carefully check their credit card statements when they receive them in the mail for unknown purchases - especially ones from oversea locations and call your credit card company immediately to report that.

Nov 12, 2010

Hands on learning: From the ground up

This is part of an ongoing blog where I shadow the 19th BLETP cadets through their MARCs training. To start at the beginning, click here.

VASSALBORO – After getting a refresher course on Oct. 25, the cadets of the 19th Basic Law Enforcement Training Program at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy learned about fighting from the ground.
Detective Paul Fenton of the Cape Elizabeth Police Department, along with Cpl. Dan Beaulieu of the Saco Police Department demonstrated different ways to fight off an aggressive subject from the ground.

Tips included, how to get up from the ground safely and properly to avoid being pushed back down by an aggressor; ways to kick at an attacker from the ground; and various escapres from grapples and mounts – as well as ways to subdue an opponent.
Fenton stressed that fighting in police work is drastically different from any fighting the is televised, be it Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or boxing – simply because there are no rules for the aggressor and there are lots of rules for the officer.

“One of the more important aspects is that most any physical struggle ends up on the ground,” said Fenton. “If you end up in the wrong position on the ground that could be a bad position.”
He hopes that the training will help the cadets walk away from a confrontation that lands them on the ground.
Beaulieu thinks the importance of being proficient in defensive tactics can’t be understated.
“Most [law enforcement officers] will never fire their weapon. Every one of them will be involved in a physical confrontation,” he said. “It’s something everyone will use. If you’re not good at it or don’t refine it you could be in trouble. [Defensive tactics] could ultimately save your life.”

Nov 9, 2010

Home on the range: How much have you had to drink tonight?

(Craig Meunier of North Anson takes an Intoxilyzer test, administered by
Deputy Matt Sharpe of Sagadahoc Sheriff's Office, prior to participating as a volunteer)

Police deal with hundreds upon thousands of drunk drivers each year. It’s not only one of the most frequent calls they respond to, it’s also something oft contested in court. This makes it imperative that the officers not only know what to look for when on an OUI stop, but also know how to properly articulate it in their reports.
(Cadets practice administering the FSTs to become comfortable with the instructions)

Everything from how they instruct the person during field sobriety tests, to how well the cadets themselves can perform on the tests when giving instructions can come into play in a court case.

The reason field sobriety tests became standardized, is because prior to that different officers had different methods for determining if someone was sober. Now, all law enforcement officers are administering the same tests.

“It makes it easier for the prosecution of cases,” explained Officer Robert Libby of the South Portland Police Department and Lead Instructor for the OUI SFSTs portion the range weeks. “Prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys – they all know what it [SFSTs] is and if it’s done properly.

On the day I was there, the cadets were reviewing videos of impaired people and watching for clues of impairment on various field sobriety tests.

The tests are:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): where the officer uses a visual stimulus (a pen, or similar object) that the subject tracks with their eyes. Nystagmus is an involuntary, and slightly creepy, twitching of the eyeball which becomes pronounced when someone is intoxicated.

The walk and turn test: Pretty much what it sounds like. The cadet places the subject in the instruction position (one foot in front of the other, hands at her sides) and they have to take 9 steps, turn and take nine more in a straight line, heel-to-toe and counting out loud.
The one-leg-stand: This is also pretty self explanatory. The cadet instructs the student to lift one leg (whichever the subject is comfortable with) six inches off the ground and count by thousands (one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.) until instructed to stop.

The tests, with the exception of HGN, are designed to divide the subject’s attention. This is done because driving is a skill the depends on people being able to operate a large piece of deadly machinery using divided attention (gauging one’s speed, braking, watching for obstacles, etc.).

And it isn’t just the tests that the officers are concerned about, it’s the totality of the circumstances – how was the vehicle being operated (swerving, wide turns, rolled stops, etc.), was there a smell of alcohol (or intoxicating beverages, rather); was the subject’s speech slurred; could he answer questions and retrieve his license; and so on.

In order to help the cadets become comfortable not only with administering the tests but being able to experience what it’s like to deal with an impaired person, The Maine Criminal Justice Acaemy employs the National Highway Safety Administration’s nationally certified training, which includes having the cadets evaluate volunteers who have been carefully monitored and dosed with alcohol.

“[For some cadets] this is they only opportunity they will have to correctly evaluate an impaired person,” said James Lyman the training coordinator for MCJA. “It’s a valuable tool for them.”

Lyman said that the cadets can watch videos of HGN, and practice administering field sobriety tests on sober subjects, but nothing beats working with a real subject who is impaired. They can see HGN in a real person, observe clues during tests, and see how it stacks up with the subject’s actual level of impairment.

The entire process is overseen by several law enforcement officers. There is an EMT on hand that takes the blood pressure and evaluates each of the volunteers before any alcohol is administered. The subjects are all given an Intoxilyzer beforehand to ensure they had no alcohol in the system.

(Nicole Prescott of Unity, an Intermediate EMT takes Jake Hall's blood pressure)

The goal is to get the volunteers between 0.08 to 0.12 percent, though in this case no one was above a 0.09 percent at any time. Throughout the evening, the volunteers were given additional breathalyzer tests to track their level of intoxication.

“It’s pretty controlled and we take it very seriously,” said Lyman.

The volunteers have to have arrangements for travel (i.e. have a designated driver), and are not allowed to leave the premises until their blood alcohol level is .04 percent. And they also have to agree to stay home and not consume any more alcohol for the rest of the evening. If any of the volunteers decide they aren’t comfortable or don’t feel well, they can stop at any time (though this didn’t come up).

After this course the cadets have to evaluate 10 intoxicated individuals with 80 percent with chemcical confirmation (i.e. an Intoxilyzer test)accuracy to be considered qualified.

Nov 4, 2010

Home on the range: cruiser control

This is an ongoing blog where I shadow the 19 Basic Law Enforcement Training Program cadets from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy through some of their training. Start reading about the defensive tactics training here. Read about the firearms training here.

(Objects in mirror are chasing you)

Cruiser control

Emergency Vehicle Operation and Control (EVOC) is just what it sounds like: being able to control your vehicle. The idea wasn’t so much to learn how to drive at high rates of speed, but to be able to control the vehicle as efficiently as possible.

The EVOC instructors for the week I was there included Lead Instructor Trooper Jack Dow of the Maine State Police Troop K, Sgt. John O’Malley of the Scarborough Police Department, Trooper Adam McNaughton of the Maine State Police Troop D, Trooper Marc Poulin of the Maine State Police Troop D, Sgt. Jason Nein of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, and Trooper Bernard Branette of the Maine State Police Troop K.

Throughout the week the cadets have to be able to put a cruiser through various different maneuvers at low, medium or high speeds. On Oct. 14, they were working on braking turns, where they come into a turn going around 50 miles per hour.

Other maneuvers include a serpentine, where cones are set up in something of a slalom formation 100 feet apart and the cadets have to maneuver between them at 40 mph without touching a cone. The evasive maneuver is when the cadet is driving with an instructor and they come to a point in the course where they have to turn left or right, and about 20 feet before the cones obstructing the path the instructor calls out “left” or “right” and they have to turn the proper direction. Occasionally, the instructors won’t call out and it’s up to the cadet to still avoid the obstacles. There is also a low-speed precision obstacle course where they have to move the cruisers through a tight network of cones.

When the cadets are tested it’s based on how quickly they made it through and how many cones they hit. This is to add the element of stress to the cadets to add stress to the situation to emulate the stress the cadets will face when they are out on the road.

(Inches to spare)

There’s also the reverse serpentine, where they do the same as the serpentine, except slower and backwards. The same is true for the reverse obstacle course.

The instructors explained that the courses are designed to simulate actual driving experiences. The evasive maneuver is to simulate an animal or person running out into the roadway.
“These are diminishing skills,” said Sgt. O’Malley. If you don’t use them every day they go away.”

He noted that inclement weather doesn’t change how you have to handle the cruiser, but at what speeds things can go out of control.

“Everything is the same, but you just start to slide at a low speed in rain and snowy conditions,” he said.

They have to do all of these maneuvers during the day and at night.

They were also instructed in the use of spike strips (also known as spike mats) and how they are deployed and removed during a chase. They used spike-less mats to get used to tossing them out and pulling them back.
(Spike strips going out)

(Spike strips being run over, spike-free, of course)
The night I was there the cadets also had to attempt a pursuit during the day and at night. This involved some of the instructors driving past the cadets and doing something that would be a moving violation (donuts in the road, swerving off pavement) and then have the cadets pursue them. The cadets are trained to use the cruiser correctly, meaning calling in on their radios, activating their blue lights, staying on the legal side of the road, and slowing down for stop signs and yield signs (Sgt. O’Malley explained that if using the lights and siren, police don’t have to come to a complete stop, but they have to be able to in the case of oncoming traffic or other obstacles in the road).

(The cruiser with the smoking tires is the "bad guy")

The importance of being able to use the cruisers efficiently is made clear, as someone without this kind of training will be putting a vehicle through quite a beating if they don't know what they're doing.

There's a lot that goes into these maneuvers, from when to speed up to when to hit the brakes,which varies depending on the speed that the cruiser is going. What looks easy in the movies takes a great deal of skill and understanding in real life.

"It gives you a better understanding of how the suspect drives and a better understanding of what [the other driver] is going through and makes us much more prepared than any civilian," said Cadet Derek Abbott, a patrol officer for Portland Police Department. "The overall tactical aspect [of EVOC] is unique. High speed pursuit is challenging ... if there's one thing this week has taught me is humility."

One thing that I noticed in the scant amount of time I was able to spend with the cadets is how quickly they were able to pick up these skills. One could literally hear the difference as they learned how to control their cruisers at decently high speeds (50 mph) as they took a turn. In the early morning, there was the occasional tire squeal, but by late morning to early afternoon they were rounding the corners without so much as a whisper.