(La Porte, IN) - The LaPorte Police Department is assembling a group of officers trained and equipped to handle the most dangerous situations safely.
An emergency response team is another step under Mayor Tom Dermody to restore a depleted force.
“We’ve committed as a cornerstone that we’re going to have a safe community,” Dermody said.
Police Chief Paul Brettin had chosen nine officers to serve on the ERT and start training next month. In addition, funding is being pursued to purchase equipment like night vision goggles, ballistic vests, helmets, tear gas, and wireless phones to negotiate with hostage-takers and other sources of a significant threat.
Federal grants, private donations, and other funding sources are being pursued to meet the over-$100,000 start-up costs.
“The need is there, and we’ve fallen behind on that need,” Brettin said.
Brettin said the department used to have an ERT, but it was disbanded several years ago. He said equipment used by ERT’s for added protection is no longer safe to use after five years and decision-makers then felt the city didn’t have the money to restock.
The department has relied on emergency response officers from the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan City. The advantage of having an ERT here is a quicker and guaranteed response for local citizens.
Brettin says there’s always a chance outside departments won’t have adequate resources to provide at a moment’s notice if they’re experiencing high demand. Officers lacking skills and tools to deal with those situations effectively would still respond but at a greater risk to themselves.
“It’s a lot safer to take a trained team in there,” Brettin said.
Brettin said ERT members would also go out and arrest individuals wanted for major felonies or with a history of extreme violence. Right now, Brettin noted the two other local police agencies do warrant sweeps in LaPorte with help from the U.S. Marshal’s Office. More sweeps would be able to occur in LaPorte from the department having its own ERT to use at its discretion.
“We have too many high-risk warrants individuals in our community. We need to be knocking doors, knocking them in, and removing people that do not want to live their lives appropriately and safely in our community,” Dermody said.
After years of struggling with staffing, the police department has more than 40 officers, which dropped to nearly 30 officers more than a year ago.
The city also gave significant pay raises to help maintain the numbers. The goal is to activate the ERT this summer.
“We got the officers who are interested. We’re just waiting for the green light,” Brettin said.