Edgartown police demonstrate high tech equipment

Edgartown police officer Ryan Ruley demonstrates the department's new video training simulator using actual video of a school corridor. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Edgartown police and fire departments showed off the town’s new emergency management command center by inviting selectmen to hold their regular Monday night meeting in the new facility and use some of the facilities high-tech features.

Police also demonstrated a new training simulator that can utilize actual video footage from local schools, public buildings, and other locations as part of emergency scenarios projected on a screen.

The new room is located upstairs in the police department. It includes a large meeting area, computer stations, radio communications equipment, and large screen television and computer displays. It will serve as a command center for the town’s emergency response to storms or natural disasters.

During the selectmen’s meeting, a routine shade-tree hearing, usually a mystery to observers, turned into an interactive visual exercise.

A resident asked to remove a dying tree, an action that requires the approval of the board of selectmen.

Using a “smartboard,” selectmen reviewed pictures of the tree projected on a large computer monitor. Information technology manager Adam Darak drew annotations directly on the smartboard, showing where a new tree might be located, and drawing a big “X” through the damaged tree.

Selectmen often have to rely on descriptions of the tree from contractors and the town’s tree warden during hearings. Not this time.

“That looks worse than Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree,” selectman Art Smadbeck said. “This is very handy. This is the first time I’ve seen this.”

The screen can be printed, annotations and all, for town records.

Training simulator

Following the meeting, police demonstrated the new training simulator. Police officers carrying special simulated weapons and flashlights are placed into realistic situations amid the backdrop of recorded ambient sounds and are asked to react to various scenarios. Their response is then reviewed for training purposes.

Officers Ryan Ruley and William Bishop were presented with a simulated emergency shooting and hostage situation using actual video of a school corridor provided with the software. The video simulated what the officers would see as they moved through the hallways, and encountered various situations which required action. In the future, the simulator will utilize actual scenes of local schools.

Officer Joel Deroche operated the simulator. At the touch of a key, he can change the video simulation, requiring a different response from the officers.

“It could change the guy, right in the middle of it, it changes the whole situation,” Chief Tony Bettencourt said. “They could go over this simulation tomorrow night, and it could be totally different.”

The simulator will provide 80 percent of the annual weapons training required of police officers. Until now, police officers had to travel off Island for that training.

Edgartown voters approved $85,000 for the simulator and emergency management command center equipment at last year’s town meeting, but that didn’t cover the entire cost of the room.

“I want to thank Bill Bishop from One Job at a Time,” chief Bettencourt said. Mr. Bishop, father of the police officer demonstrating the simulator, donated his labor and construction skills to the town. “We were able to do it within the budget, thanks to two weeks of hard labor. I think the town should be proud. We have a state-of-the-art facility here.”

Chief Bettencourt also thanked police officers who donated many hours of time installing the sub floor, painting, and doing all the finish work.

Chief Bettencourt said the department plans an open house for the public in late April or early May.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the simulator scene as the Edgartown School.