Training key for today’s officers

Steve Stefanides

Today’s law enforcement officer has seen the demands of their jobs escalate considerably in the last two decades. That escalation has seen the demands for better training and equipment also increase to meet new challenges.

“The investment in training for our officers pays out huge dividends to those that we are seeking to serve,” said Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino. “The challenges facing agencies just a decade ago have increased exponentially as departments deal with shrinking resources and the retirement of seasoned officers that have been on the job for 20-25 years.

Mobile Tactics’ 40-foot self-contained ballistics trailer.

“Marco has benefited from many of those officers that have come to us since the department was formed 15 years ago,” said Schettino. “They’ve been an integral part of the mentoring process for the next generation of professionals that are coming onboard.”

That was the case last week when the private company Mobile Tactics came to the island to donate the use of its mobile shooting range to qualify all members of the department on weapons.

“We have our personnel shoot at least twice a year; once only with handguns and the second time with a variety of the weapons they have such as shotgun and rifle,” said Sgt. Nick Ojanovac, who supervises both road patrol and investigative services.

“We were able to run all our personnel through the process without calling them back on overtime and having them drive all the way out to the Port of the Islands shooting range. By the utilization of the mobile range we were able to accomplish our goals without leaving the island, therefore we were able to save the taxpayers a considerable amount of money in overtime,” said Ojanovac.

The portable range was a concept that Mike Christoff, a former Michigan and Marco officer, created several years ago to provide agencies the ability to more effectively utilize resources by bringing the range to them – rather than having to travel for training necessary to stay state-certified.

“We redesigned the trailer over the last couple of years and we have relaunched that endeavor,” said Christoff.

Christoff also hired Phillip Ludos, another retired Michigan and Florida police chief, to assist with the endeavor.

“Phil has the type of experience and training background that helps officers to stay current with their firearms discipline and familiarization,” said Christoff.

Awareness training

In addition to the firearms requalification training, Marco officers recently went through computer-enhanced situational-awareness training. In that training, officers are put into a variety of shooting scenarios in which they determine whether or not to use deadly force.

“Our officers are required to make split second life and death decisions out there. There is no instant replay in these situations and no second chances. The training we attempt to provide is geared to providing them with the proper instruction and guidance to make the correct choices,” said Ojanovac.

The department is planning continued training and will hold “active shooter” situational training in the near future, Marco’s police chief said.

“Our goal is to provide the best training platform for our personnel in all aspects of their job and the changing challenges of the real world,” said Schettino.