public safety

RESOURCEFUL TRAINING  One of the many things that changed after September 11, 2001, is the fact that smaller local police departments realized how difficult it would be to protect citizens during large-scale crises. Ironically, it often takes such a crisis to prompt readiness. Happily, the South Hills Area Council of Governments (SHACOG) is taking a proactive approach to protecting citizens.

The 22 communities that make up SHACOG employ a total of 434 police offices. These communities consistently want to share expertise, training and experience and have for some time combined resources on the SHACOG Critical Incident Response Team and joint investigations teams. But recently, the SHACOG Police Chiefs Advisory Committee, led by South Park Police Chief Dennis McDonough, has stepped up coordinated training for things such as firearms training and dealing with active shooter situations.

As a result, the officers in SHACOG, who protect 23 percent of the county’s population, can get to know each other other and determine policies, protocols and equipment to be shared well before any situations develop.

Mt. Lebanon Police Chief Aaron Lauth, who is on the advisory committee, says his group has been standardizing lesson plans and following trends. For example, SHACOG’s firearms training committee, led by MLPD Lt. Paul Petras, has been reviewing exercises that would take officers out of the shooting range during state-mandated annual firearms recertification. “The range isn’t reality,” Lauth says. “They learn more by learning how to shoot on the move, or while seeking cover.”

Exercises such as “shoot/don’t shoot” help officers with decision making, Lauth says.

The SHACOG effort is cost effective. Officers can split up, attend advanced training and bring back what they learn to everyone else.

“Everybody is tight with the budget, and these are tax dollars,” McDonough says. “Why don’t we be smart about this?”