By Carrie Park, Class of 2016
It was a dark and stormy night…
My partner, Kristine Schultze, and I are outside the abandoned school house waiting to begin the simulation set up by the Montville Police Department.
“Here’s the situation,” Chief of police, Terry Grice, explains to us. “We have been told there are three unidentified, white males holding children hostage inside the school. You need to go in and clear all the rooms in search of the shooters. Make sure you communicate with each other.”
We are armed with Glock pellet guns and flashlights. We call upon all our knowledge from watching TV cop shows and cautiously enter the building.
“Schultze, I found a kid,” I whisper, shining my flashlight on a cardboard cutout in the corner. “Are you okay?” I ask it. It does not respond. We continue shining our flashlights around the room, both of us on high alert.
“Every room is in play,” our police instructors remind us. “Tell your partner when an area is clear.”
“This room is clear,” Schultze announces like a pro.
We press on through the darkness. I open a closet door and a cardboard man glares menacingly at me.
“I got a guy!” I yell.
“Shoot him!” my partner commands.
I turn back to the closet and shoot the cardboard criminal and then, as an afterthought, I yell, “Freeze!”
Schultze and Park. Right up there with Cagney and Lacey. Or possibly Abbott and Costello.
We clear two more rooms and head up a dark, empty stairwell. My flashlight goes out. I look back to the instructors hoping for a replacement or at least some batteries.
“You’ll have to rely on your partner,” comes the response.
“Go on ahead, I’ll cover you,” Schultze says.
Somehow, going ahead and being lit up from behind by my partner’s flashlight does not seem like a great idea, but then again, I told a cardboard man to freeze after I shot him, so who am I to talk? We creep up the stairs. There is a closed door in front of us. It’s the men’s bathroom.
“Every room is in play,” we are reminded.
I open the door and my partner’s flashlight cuts through the darkness.
“What do you see?” I ask.
“A urinal,” she responds. “Go in, Park, and I’ll cover you.”
Again, I consider the fact that I am getting the short end of the stick here.
I peer further into the bathroom and there is a closed stall. Under the door, I can see legs. Real legs. Oh no. I back out quickly, pushing her with me as I go.
“There’s actually someone in there,” I say.
“Did you ask them what they are doing?” the instructor asks.
“Well,” I stammer. “I assume they are…wait, are they part of this?” Not soon enough, it dawns on me that a random person unassociated with the scenario would not wander into a locked building on police property at 8 PM just to use the men’s room. We go back in. I kick open the stall door and scream at the assailant to come out with his hands, and hopefully his pants, up. Schultze frisks him and we discover it is one of the other instructors playing the role of the unassuming janitor. Book ’em Danno! Or rather, don’t, since he’s just the janitor.
We move on. I successfully shoot another cardboard criminal. We have one more room to clear. Schultze sweeps the room with her flashlight and it rests on a man in a hoodie sitting on a folding chair. In a flash, Schultze, pulls out her gun and starts shooting him. He jumps up.
“Wait! You’re shooting a real person!” I yell, somewhat confused about how far we are supposed to be immersed in this simulation.
The criminal, who is apparently totally immersed, starts firing back at us. My mind races back to the waiver I was asked to sign about an hour ago. Did it specifically state we agreed to be shot at?
“Don’t let him get away!” the instructors yell to us.
I join her and start shooting. The criminal falls to the ground. I approach the body and remove his weapon. The cardboard children are safe. Forget Cagney and Lacey, Schultze and Park have saved the day.
The Active Shooter scenario was but one of three events the six of us from the current Leadership class experienced first hand. We also performed a routine traffic stop and responded to a domestic violence call. During the simulations, we became keenly aware of the life and death decisions that our policemen and women face every day. Don’t get me wrong, Montville Township is not the underbelly of the midwest. On the contrary. Safewise, an organization that reviews statistics from around the state, ranked the Montville as the 14th safest city in Ohio in 2015. How does Montville do it? It all rests on the shoulders of its dedicated officers and their Chief of Police, Terry Grice ’15.
“People need to realize that we aren’t just about issuing speeding tickets,” Officer Dan Hazek told our group. He showed us a power point slide with an impressive list of community programs that the police department promotes and helps staff.
“One of our biggest challenges is public perception,” Chief Grice revealed. “We are very involved in the community and people don’t realize everything we do.”
And what they do is really amazing. Just take a look at their website at www.montvilletwp.org and click on Police Department under the Safety Services tab to read about the numerous community services they provide. From D.A.R.E to Vacation Watch requests, the 14 officers that serve under Chief Grice keep the 12,000 citizens of Montville Township safe and secure.
Aside from crime prevention, the department works hard at creating programs focused on building positive relationships with our community and our youth. Most impressive is the Juvenile Diversion program. A while back, new drivers who received their first traffic violation were put through juvenile court and punished with community service tasks like picking up garbage.
“That didn’t help them become better drivers and it didn’t make them like us,” Officer Joel Eckstine explained.
The Juvenile Diversion program diverted youth from juvenile court and put them through a driver’s training program using simulators and classroom instruction. That program led to the creation of “Take Control.” New drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 can sign up free of charge and work with trained instructors. Students get hands-on experience in skid control, collision avoidance, and emergency breaking. A comparable course would cost around $250. The method the officers use makes learning driving skills fun and informative.
Officers also participate in the Medina Community Police Athletic League (MCPAL). From running clubs to basketball, this after school program promotes trust and understanding in a non-confrontational environment between police and youth.
“It’s so impressive that your whole force is all-in. What is your leadership philosophy?” I asked Chief Grice.
“We achieve things together,” he said without hesitation. “It’s all about teamwork. I’m proud of my officers and my administrative staff. They are like a second family to me.”
It is clear the feeling is mutual.
“Not to be cheesy,” Officer Joel Eckstine told my partner and I. “But I would cut my arm off for the chief.”
That’s dedication. When I relayed this to Chief Grice, he assured me he does not demand severed appendages from his team. He does, however, demand that each of his officers get exposed to neuromuscular incapacitation. That’s being shot with a taser to you civilians.
“It’s important for officers to understand what is going to happen to the person they use it on,” he explained to the group of us, all of whom were quickly tearing up those waivers we signed.
In the end, we were not asked to be volunteers, but one of the new auxiliary officers, Alex Williams, did agree to be the victim.
“We’ll need spotters on either side of him,” Officer Justin Bennett directed as he loaded the charge into the non-lethal weapon. Under extremely controlled conditions, Bennett fired and we watched first hand how effective a taser is as a take down device.
He handled that real well,” Officer Eckstine admired.
While potentially not as memorable as being tased, Chief Grice openly extended an offer to us and anyone else to come down to the Montville station and ask to take a ride with one of his officers during a shift.
Just don’t ask for Shultze and Park, they are going to leave the policing of the community to the professionals.