Informative, educational and eye-opening were just some of the adjectives City Council members used to describe an in-depth look given by the Wooster Police Department.
Members of the department staged a “show and tell” of sorts for council members and city leaders Monday night at the service department building before the regular council meeting.
Detectives gave everyone a glimpse into the depths of their jobs and demonstrations were given for tasers and what a K-9 can do in the field.
Two of the department’s new police vehicles were on display with other tools of the trade for Wooster officers.
Sgt. Robert Merillat, the lead detective at the city’s detective bureau, put together a poster board of roughly 75 capital offenders who were sentenced to prison time.
“The bulk of our work is investigating sexual assaults,” Merillat told the group, and most of the victims are children. That statement came as a shocker to many there as many believed that drug activity was on top of the list. Merillat and the other officers explained while WPD detectives do some work on those cases, most of those cases are handled by Medway.
Wooster detectives, Merillat said, spend most of their time investigating and interviewing people in sexual assault cases. And those people are the ones who get most of the jail sentences in Wayne County.
Wooster detectives spend some time investigating break ins and robberies and those take quite a bit of time. Detective Juan McCloud said interviews can last hours. But the Wooster detectives typically get confessions in these cases.
“(It’s) tough to get someone to make an admission to something like that … a lot of times it comes down to the detective in that room,” Merillat said. “These cases to me are some of the most important things we do.”
Detective Anthony Lemmon added they handle lie detector tests, gather fingerprints, and work as liaisons with several agencies in the community as a daily function of their job duties. Those tools were on display for city leaders to peruse. Lemmon said detectives also work with groups and businesses around town on specific needs, such as the latest hot button issue of “mass casualty” scenarios.
Fisher chimed in that “this isn’t CSI. We can’t solve (crimes) in 15 minutes.”
Patrolman Greg Kolek, who is a certified taser instructor, gave a demonstration on the weapons that are standard for Wooster patrolmen. Council members were given the opportunity to shoot a taser gun at a dummy, since no one volunteered to get shot by one.
“Before the taser, we’d have to go hands-on,” Capt. Scott Rotolo explained. And since tasers have been rolled into police tactics he said injuries for police officers and those in trouble have been greatly reduced.
Fisher explained that the police department learned it “was very apparent” during the active shooter simulation that the department needed a command vehicle. It recently acquired a new Ford Interceptor and fitted it with added equipment such as a dedicated laptop, extra lighting and other tools which simply don’t fit in regular patrol cruisers.
One of the new Chevrolet Caprices was on display too, which is the department’s new cruiser replacing the long-standing Ford Crown Victorias.
Currently, the department has six Caprices, one Ford Interceptor, and five Crown Vics. Since the Crown Vics were phased out by Ford those vehicles will be replaced when they fall out of rotation by Caprices.
Two newer items the chief showed council were first aid kits for each patrol car and a “Jersey claw” tool.
The first aid kits, Fisher explained, are ideal to aid an officer in case of a serious injury until a squad arrives.
And the Jersey claw is used to pry open locked doors and break chains. Fisher said the department is using one on a trial basis, but his hope is to get one for each cruiser.
Primarily, the Jersey claws are ideal in active shooter scenarios. Fisher gave the example of Virginia Tech, where that shooter actually chained doors to some buildings he entered.
But the “crowd pleaser” was Patrolman Rob Henderson and his German shepherd, Hades.
Henderson explained Hades is a dual-purpose trained K-9, meaning he can sniff for narcotics and locate fleeing perpetrators.
“I have a wonderful tool I can call back,” Henderson said.
Henderson provided demonstrations of Hades’ abilities for council members.
“When people think ‘police dog’ everyone thinks snarling pile of teeth,” Fisher said, who was a K-9 handler himself. “But we use their nose a hundred times more than their teeth.”
“It was nice and really eye-opening,” said Mark Cavin, Ward 1 representative. “It left me with a better, more secure feeling on our town.”
“I enjoyed it,” said David Silvestri, Ward 3 representative. “It was good to see (the department) with some state of the art equipment.”
“Bad guys beware,” said Jon Ansel, at-large representative.
Reporter Steve Huszai can be reached at 330-287-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is @GeneralSmithie on Twitter.