Training day: Quincy cops hone their skills at Ephrata Airport


EPHRATA – It turns out there’s a proper technique for throwing a strip of spikes in front of a speeding automobile.

It’s something Quincy Police Officer Jerry Martinez practiced over and over again Tuesday under the watchful eyes of QPD Detective Damon Powell and School Resource Officer Sal Mancini on a lonely stretch of unused track in Ephrata Municipal Airport Tuesday evening.

There are quite a few, in fact. The tape is squeezed, folded like an accordion, and once thrown into the street, an officer must quickly pull an attached rope to open the tape without giving the driver time to try to avoid it.

It takes a while for Martinez to get it right. At first, he would toss the practice band – a standard spike band without the spikes – so that it lands spike-side down.

Not particularly effective when trying to stop a vehicle.

While Mancini and Powell make suggestions – let it go with both hands at once, throw it to the side and no, “you’re overthinking it” – Martinez has another idea.

“Let me take off my gloves,” he said.

But Martinez understands, and twice shows that he can throw the tape ahead and theoretically disable a high-speed SUV driven by Quincy Police Officer Steven Harder.

This was all part of a training afternoon and evening that saw approximately half of the Quincy Police Department in Ephrata to conduct an emergency vehicle operations course and hone their driving skills, then perform a high-risk shutdown simulation.

The other half of the QPD was here last week doing much the same on snow and ice.

“It was initially for reduced road conditions but obviously the snow has gone so we had to change things up a bit,” said Detective QPD Powell, who is overseeing the two nights of training.

The course is quite short and involves a slalom driven as fast as possible followed by a short “maze” through a conical box with tight curves which requires slower and more precise driving, also done as quickly as possible – all without knocking over any orange traffic cones.

Officers had several opportunities to practice along the course before making two final timed runs – one using traction control and one without.

Everyone did the course in about 30 seconds, within seconds.

Powell said the training is important because despite recent changes to the law, police departments are still allowed to engage in high-speed chases in impaired driving and reckless driving, although officers in the law enforcement like the QPD must get clearance from a supervisor and the incident itself. must first meet certain criteria.

As he prepared to conduct the course, QPD Sgt. Chris Lafferty explained the value of a workout like this.

“When things happen on patrol, when you’re driving in response to an ongoing domestic violence (call), a physical fight, or you need to support someone, whether it’s in the county or elsewhere, you must drive to a high pace. ,” he said. “It kind of prepares you before you put yourself in that situation.”

It’s about knowing what you can do with a vehicle, your limits, and pushing those limits while maintaining control, Lafferty explained.

“It’s important,” he added.

Officers also split into two teams to practice a “high-risk” criminal stop on a vehicle – seized several years ago by the QPD in a drug bust – “parked” in a parking lot. Officers cautiously and methodically approached the vehicle, calling out orders in English and Spanish, to an “armed suspect” played by Daniel Reyes, an assistant at the city’s animal shelter.

sergeant. Jorge Trujillo ordered Reyes to roll down the window, reach out his arms, open the door from the outside, then slowly approach the officers – each holding a plastic simulated firearm – walking backwards.

Reyes was instructed before the drill to obey all commands he could hear.

“It’s usually done after a vehicle chase, or for a very violent crime or a stolen vehicle, because we don’t know everything that’s in the vehicle,” Powell explained. “They might have weapons. We do not know.

As Trujillo and Mancini approach the suspect’s vehicle, Powell must warn another officer to approach from the other side and create a potential crossfire situation where officers could end up shooting other officers. .

“We’re stripping it down to the bare essentials, so they can communicate and move with each other as a crew,” Powell said. “They’re using their light curtain, they’re using their verbal orders to give verbal orders to the suspect in the car to come back and be arrested.”

Powell said the runway at Ephrata Municipal Airport isn’t big enough for proper driver training, but the QPD makes it work. Other agencies in the area go to a facility at the Hanford site or even the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy in Burien, he said.

Martinez, 23, who has only been a police officer in Quincy since last May, said he became a police officer because he wanted to make a difference.

“I’m originally from Los Angeles, and the police force there isn’t the best in the community,” Martinez said. “I grew up seeing this stuff and I didn’t want it.”

Martinez, who lives on Rock Island, said Quincy was home and “love this place.”

Martinez also said he even enjoys practice days like Tuesday, which saw him bend and throw a strip of spikes over and over, then drive as fast as possible through a short course of cones. signage.

“I love this type of training,” he says. “Anytime you have the opportunity to do some type of training like this, it’s really good because 90% of our work is done in a vehicle.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at [email protected]

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