By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff
On a recent fall morning, the quiet of the Bayonne waterfront was broken by a swarm of Port Authority Police officers descending upon the old cruise terminal in response to a report of a shooter. The officers, in full tactical gear and armed with rifles and Glock pistols, fired their weapons, barricaded the suspect and were able to apprehend him within minutes.
While the action that unfolded that day appeared real, it was actually one of the newest training programs taught to PAPD officers and those from other law enforcement agencies to help prepare them for terroristic threats. The PAPD is responsible for policing some of the nation’s busiest transportation facilities, and every facility presents unique challenges in dealing with an active threat — whether an airport, tunnel, bridge, train or even an office space.
“This training is a part of an ongoing, comprehensive effort by the agency to help improve security at all of our facilities,” said PAPD Chief of Police Emilio W. Gonzalez. “It’s an extremely challenging task, but we continue to practice and train for emergencies for the safety of the public.”
The training program was implemented in September and is being incorporated into the officers’ future training. It includes a five-day training course that encompasses response to an active threat, downed officer rescue techniques, emergency trauma care and rescue task force concepts.
The training was led by the PAPD’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) but it included various commands, as well as officers from police departments in Jersey City, Paramus, Northvale and Union City in New Jersey and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office. The sessions are critical to maintaining ongoing relationships with the PAPD’s mutual aid partners, as they would serve as a backup in emergencies.
PAPD’s emergency training was recently profiled by local news broadcasts:
During the training session, the first thing the officers learned was how to stop the threatening individual from continuing to harm others. Officers not only are trained to neutralize the threat, but to save people’s lives through medical treatment. As the group of officers worked together to find and neutralize the threat, an officer dragged an “injured” mannequin to safety and initiated efforts to stop the wounds from bleeding.
“Not only do we have to stop the threat, we have to save people’s lives,” said PAPD ESU Sgt. Daniel Dias, a 25-year EMT veteran. He stressed that in these scenarios, the gunshot victims’ deaths are not caused by the gunshot wounds but from loss of blood.
Each PAPD officer has access to a basic first aid kit. But the PAPD Special Operations officers carry an active shooter kit able to treat up to 15 injured people. The most important tool in the kit is the tourniquet which can tighten and restrict blood flow in as quickly as 20 seconds.
“Our role in continuing to train these officers and civilians focuses on empowering them to respond and react during a high impact situation where life threatening injuries exist,” said Michael McCabe, the Tactical Medical Coordinator assisting PAPD with its training. “We want to ensure that all officers have a baseline knowledge in bleeding control techniques and basic first aid that will enable them to save as many lives as possible.”
Photos by Luiz C. Ribeiro