Programs
Cooperative Emergency Response Program – Police

From the date of its incorporation, the by-laws of SHACOG established the Police Chiefs Advisory Committee as a standing committee of the organization.  Tasked with providing advice and guidance to the Board of Directors and the Executive Director concerning police-related public safety matters, for many years it met primarily on an ad hoc basis to address varied issues as they arose.  In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, however, the Board of Directors looked to the committee to provide some direction in case of a major event in the SHACOG area.

Unfortunately, prior to 9/11 but in that same general time period, two other tragedies occurred.  Gaining national attention was the mass school shooting in Columbine, Colorado, and locally was a multiple murder/shooting rampage wherein the actor traversed several SHACOG municipalities during his crime spree.  Both of these incidents were already causing a few SHACOG police chiefs to independently examine their individual response capabilities and collectively pose the possibility of developing some type of group reaction to large-scale incidents.  With these significant occurrences as a backdrop, they approached the Executive Director with a request to consider convening a meeting under the auspices of SHACOG to explore the potential for coordinated cooperation in these types of situations.

After initial meetings during which all three of these events were reviewed, and recognizing the potential for other large-scale incidents, the police chiefs recommended a coordinated effort to the SHACOG Board of Directors.  This resulted in the Board formally establishing the Cooperative Emergency Response Program in January 2002.  Founded on a standardized mutual aid agreement, it has subsequently witnessed the specialized command training for the chiefs and theirs seconds in command, standardized training of all uniformed officers in critical incident management procedures and active shooter response, and SHACOG-wide joint training exercises.  Most of the standardized training has evolved from pursuing opportunities to “train the trainer” which allowed the development of our own training cadre.  With this fundamental commonality, interdepartmental cooperation has evolved as the norm and mutual support is routine.

The program has been monitored and evaluated since its inception at monthly meetings of the police chiefs, with all administrative support being provided by SHACOG.  After several years the chiefs determined that the development of a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), more commonly referred to as SWAT, was essential to a full response capability.  The premise was well founded considering that the SHACOG service area is home to both the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport and the Allegheny County Airport, a US Department of Energy Laboratory, fuel tank farms, chemical plants, two major shopping malls, two hospitals and twelve school districts.  Given this array of potential incident locations, the ability to provide an effective response was deemed imperative.  Authorized by the SHACOG Board in 2007, the team was formed through a rigorous application process and then trained for 18 months by professional, outside agencies in procedures ranging from tactical command to individual specialties before being certified for activation in late 2009.  Equipment and training are based on standards suggested by the National Tactical Officers Association.

Benefits reaped from the Critical Incident Response Team led the Police Chiefs to develop the Cooperative Investigative Team (CIT).  Many cases in the local communities demand investigative support that is either precluded by an individual department because all officers are known to the local citizenry or the local department lacks the resources to fully pursue the investigation.  Overseen by one of the Chiefs, a request for assistance is assigned to one of the section leaders to determine if employment of the team is warranted.  Once approved, that section leader can then draw upon either manpower or physical resources such as unmarked vehicles from the various departments to permit a full investigation of the identified problem.  Intended as a supplement to local investigations, team involvement has resulted in several arrests that eliminated many local problems.

Now embracing 23 police departments and more than 430 uniformed officers, the Critical Emergency Response Program - Police  has expanded as SHACOG has added new members. Formula based annual payments by the member municipalities generate the fiscal resources to fund the program.  A separate, additional allocation is included to maintain the CIRT activity which consists of tactical operators, negotiators and tactical emergency medics.  Grants have assisted in the evolution of the program, but the financial commitment of the member municipalities provides its foundation.  In final analysis, this overall police activity has proven not to be about simply saving money for the individual departments, although this has occurred, it has also proven to be about providing collectively through SHACOG what no one member police department could offer individually.

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