Chief notes deficiencies


Middlebury’s new police chief, James Viadero, spoke highly of the officers in the department when he attended the Aug. 11 Police Commission meeting, saying, “They are very proactive on patrol. I am extremely impressed with their response and how they handle themselves.”

At his first police commission meeting since he was sworn in, Viadero did note deficiencies in the department’s policies and equipment. He also said the department needs a new police dog because J.J., the department’s current dog, is retirement age.
Viadero said he is prioritizing the department’s needs starting with those of highest liability. He asked the commission to approve three policies, all related to the firearms officers carry while on duty. He said these policies are one of the first things state police look at when they have to conduct an investigation of a police officer who has discharged a firearm while on duty. He said policies need to be in place stating things such as the type of service revolver the officer must carry. Viadero presented three policies: a duty firearm policy, a back-up firearm policy and a patrol carbine policy.

He told commissioners he had presented the proposed policies to both the union representing the officers and to the town attorney. Both approved the policies. After some discussion, the police commission also approved the policies.
Viadero said he expects to present three to six policies to the commission each month. For the September meeting, he expects to address the use of force, motor-vehicle pursuits and stopping vehicles. He said he is triaging the policies and working his way down from those involving the most liability to those involving the least liability.

Viadero brought with him a piece of equipment called a Batshield so commissioners could see it. It is intended to provide additional protection to an officer in an active shooter situation. The shields cost $2,200 to $2,800 each, he said, but he said he would try to get funding for them through grants. Another piece of equipment he said is needed for officers is a light that attaches to the top of their firearms so they don’t have to juggle a flashlight and a firearm at the same time when responding to calls at night.

Middlebury’s police canine officer, Ed Demers, attended the meeting and participated in the discussion of the department’s current canine, J.J. He said dogs like J.J. that detect drugs and track people usually retire at 10, and J.J. is now 10-1/2 years old.
Viadero said what the department needs is a patrol dog, a German Shepard. He said a German Shepard is the best of both worlds because they can be cross-trained to also detect narcotics. Noting the small size of our police force, Viadero said, “A dog is a force multiplier.” He asked commissioners to support the new dog project and help solicit donations.

Demers said members of the community have traditionally contributed to the cost of a new dog, which includes the cost of the dog and the cost involved in the canine officer being away for 14 weeks to train with the dog.

Demers said Wednesday he hopes to begin training with a new dog in February 2015, so donations for the new dog are needed. Middlebury’s Chief Financial Officer, Larry Hutvagner, said donors should make their checks out to “Town of Middlebury” and write on the memo line “Police Dog.” Mail the checks to the Middlebury Police Department at 200 Southford Road, Middlebury CT 06762.

Demers said a police dog is a priceless member of the department. Just having a dog with an officer means a suspect is less likely to attack, and when criminals know a town has a police dog, they tend to avoid that town. Demers said J.J. has been invaluable in detecting drugs and getting them off the streets. A dog also is invaluable when a suspect is hiding in a building.

But dogs don’t find just suspects. They also track down lost children, Alzheimer’s patients and suicidal people. “If a dog finds one lost child, just one, in his whole career, he has paid for himself,” Demers said. What it takes human searchers hours to do, a dog often can do in 15 minutes.

Demers said trained police dogs cost from $6,000 to $7,500. However, all donations are welcome because they will be needed for veterinary and other costs. As for J.J., he will enjoy his retirement as a member of the Demers household.



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