Former Los Angeles police officer Tony Moreno gave a session on Southern California gangs. Other topics covered included gang communication inside prisons and an officer safety session about "the characteristics of armed gunmen."
By Julia Reynolds
The Monterey County Herald, Calif.
SALINAS, Calif. — Some 250 gang investigators and law enforcement agents from around the state stealthily came together in Salinas on Wednesday for the training conference "Survival 2007."
"It's networking among cops," said Salinas police Cmdr. Dino Bardoni, head of the Monterey County Gang Task Force.
Officials have been hush-hush about the law enforcement-only conference, which is being held in Sherwood Hall near the Salinas Sports Complex.
The conference, sponsored by the Gang Task Force, lasts through today and is the second annual event of its kind in the city.
"Last year's event was the first one and we got a lot of positive feedback," said Bardoni. "We have people from as far as Yolo County and Long Beach attending."
Gang conferences for police have become increasingly popular in recent years. In the western U.S., they take place several times a year in hotels or conference grounds in cities such as Las Vegas and Reno, making competition for attendance fierce. Some are even profit-making events that can cost officers hundreds of dollars to attend.
Locally, the Central Coast Gang Investigators Association, made up of law enforcement gang specialists, also holds gang training and networking events in San Jose and other cities.
Although they may appear to hotel guests like any other business event, such sessions are marked by ultra-high security to make sure there are no gate crashers.
Bardoni said the Salinas conference is unique in that it's free for attendees and is completely paid for by donations. Some of the instructors teach at no charge, he said.
Police officers who attend get POST training certification or college credit, said Bardoni.
"We pick and choose the topics we want," he said. "We try to make it different each year."
This year, subjects that Monterey County professionals will share with others from around the state include instruction by a Gang Task Force member on how to build a gang case -- "as a street cop, what elements to capture," Bardoni said.
And an attorney from the Monterey County District Attorney's Office is scheduled to hold a session today on how gang cases are prosecuted.
On Wednesday, former Los Angeles police officer Tony Moreno gave a session on Southern California gangs. Other topics covered included gang communication inside prisons and an officer safety session about "the characteristics of armed gunmen."
Like any business conference or trade show, the whole idea is to help people in the same field network. Bardoni said he hopes officers who attend will get to know each other well enough to stay in touch and share gang-fighting resources throughout the year.
To that end, all attendees will be invited to a barbecue today.
"We want people to know each other and share information," Bardoni said. "One way is feeding them."
Last year, he said, "even those of us in the Gang Task Force got to know other people better," which is why organizers want to keep the event fairly small.
This year's attendance of around 250 was about the same as last year's, Bardoni said, though he added that next year it may grow a little because the Survival Conference's popularity is growing.
"When this is over," he said, "we'll probably start planning again for next year."
Copyright 2007 Monterey County Herald
Calif. anti-gang forces network to save lives