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Increased police training, new radios to boost safety

SALEM — Whether it’s a new radio system or additional training for officers, Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott said it’s all about safety, both for personnel and the public.

Panezott discussed both the training practices of the department and the new digital radio system launching soon during a recent interview to review last year’s police activities.

“We’re going above and beyond the standard,” he said regarding training.

Officers do daily online training through Lexipol, the company which provides the department’s constantly updated policy manual. They’re given a scenario dealing with any number of topics they might run into during a shift and tested on the material. Each officer also completes 12 hours per year of additional training, with many officers completing even more training than that.

The state previously mandated training hours, but last year and this year the state didn’t mandate any training since there was no money funded for it by the state. The state is recommending 40 hours of training per year per officer, but can’t mandate it without funding.

“We’re going to be implementing more training for the year, unfortunately it comes out of our budget. We don’t get any reimbursement funds. We have a new governor. We’ll see what happens,” Panezott said.

Sgt. Karl Toy serves with the Alliance Special Response Team (SRT) in addition to his full-time duties as a Salem officer and now he’s been designated also as the department’s training officer. He and two other officers are state certified firearms instructors.

Officers at Salem must complete firearms training four times a year, which is up from the previous requirement of one time per year. Panezott said the training includes scenarios and training on policy issues and tasers. He said the increase was recommended by the policy manual and that’s what type of training he did when he was with the Drug Enforcement Administration, using scenarios.

He said he sees a huge improvement in accuracy and confidence with his officers.

Some of the training courses completed by various officers last year include crisis intervention, criminal patrol-drug interdiction, synthetic opioids investigation, public safety telecommunicator, high threat close quarter combat patrol basic instructor, financial records investigative skills, clandestine laboratory safety recertification, patrol related canine unit evaluation, special purpose canine unit evaluation, missing children investigation, school resource officer basic training, handler instructure and training seminar, animal encounters, amber alert and Ohio alerts training, law enforcement sexual harassment awareness, understanding stress and stress overload, ethics and professionalism, first responder autism training, rail car incident response and numerous firearms-related coursework. There was also some coursework related to officer-involved shootings.

City council recently agreed to the appropriation of money from various funds within the police budget to cover the cost of the new radio system. The infrastructure is already in place and the radios are being ordered so it won’t be long before the department switches to a digital radio system.

“We just outgrew the analog system,” Panezott said.

He explained that when the federal govenment made them switch to narrow band, that took away half of their signal strength. With the analog system, there were dead spots and the way to fix it was to add more repeaters, but that required having to switch channels, which could cost valuable time. The new digital system works more like a cell phone, constantly searching for the signal.

He said the new system “increases operational security and officer safety.”

Plus it’s done at a reasonable price. The cost as outlined by Mayor John Berlin during a Finance Committee meeting was $54,430.

The analog system will remain as a backup.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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