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    Monday, November 28, 2022

    Waterford, Ledyard partner to respond to major incidents

    Waterford ― The town has announced that its police department has entered an agreement with Ledyard’s police department to combine the efforts of each town’s special response teams (SRT) to respond to “major incidents.”

    Waterford Police Chief Marc Balestracci said the agreement, which was approved by each town and runs indefinitely, allows the two SRTs to respond to incidents as a singular unit. He described the team as one with special training and equipment that provides the best opportunity to peacefully resolve major incidents.

    He said the two teams already train together and have for more than a year. Even though the towns are not direct neighbors, Balestracci said each department can respond to a call “within minutes.”

    “In a major incident, our cities and towns have got to work together,” Balestracci said Monday. “This partnership reaffirms that.”

    Balestracci and Ledyard Police Chief John Rich said the incidents the team would respond to may not necessarily be “catastrophic” but still ‘high-risk“ incidents that would require deescalation. Rich likened a potential scenario to the standoff situation the department faced in 2016 when a man allegedly bound and assaulted his ex-girlfriend and barricaded himself in his home.

    “I always appreciate the partnership that we share among the departments here in southeastern Connecticut and the great working relationship we have with one another,” Rich said. “This is another great example of how towns are working together to keep our communities as safe as possible.”

    Rich said his department first established a SRT in 2017, partially in response to the opioid crisis. At the time his department had a larger-than-normal amount of narcotics-related search warrants to serve.

    Rich said such investigations can pose a high risk for officers and the department wanted a safer way to do its job.

    Rich said there’s a benefit “all day, every day” to having people trained to respond to high risk incidents.

    Rich said Waterford’s previous police chief, Brett Mahoney, reached out to him in 2019 to form a team, but those efforts got derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Mahoney’s retirement last year.

    Balestracci said Waterford “piggybacked“ off of Ledyard’s creation of a SRT. The department had concerns about the state’s ability to respond to a major incident in southeastern Connecticut so Waterford started training officers to be part of the team.

    If the SRT has to respond to a call, Balestracci said it would not take all of his officers away from their normal patrols. Officers assigned to the team will be able to respond to the incident, while other officers can remain on their regular assignments. Members of the SRT are regular patrol officers and the team is not a full-time position.

    While the agreement is currently between just the two towns, Balestracci said he hopes other neighboring communities join. Balestracci said he has reached out to East Lyme and believes the town has been in contact with Groton City as well to potentially create a regional team. He added that the more resources available ― both manpower and equipment ― the better off the team will be when situations arise.

    Team commanders

    First Selectman Rob Brule said each department will designate team commanders supervised by the respective police chiefs. Rich said each department is working to select a team commander and establishing a chain of command when they do deploy as a unit.

    With Ledyard contributing six officers and Waterford nine, Rich said his department will have the benefit of having more manpower to respond to an incident.

    Each department said it would use the partnership to pursue grants to fund equipment and training.

    The two departments already have experience working together. Rich said Ledyard was involved in this year’s Waterford Town Parade, where officers walked the parade route in advance and added a level of security for the event. Rich called it a “very successful” collaboration.

    “I support the formation of the SRT in Waterford as our law enforcement officials constantly improve their abilities to ensure our community is as safe as possible,” Brule said this week. “The advanced training that this team receives paired with the partnerships they are creating in the region are additional steps to enhance our capabilities to respond most effectively to a major incident.”

    k.arnold@theday.com

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