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11th Annual OLETC Mock Prison Riot Sets Records

The 11th Annual OLETC Mock Prison Riot™ set attendance records and offered a record number of certification workshops for corrections and law enforcement officers.

The 2007 event, which just wrapped up at the former West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, offered certification workshops in use of chemical munitions, tasers, night vision, and pepperball, as well as prisoner transport. In addition, a course that discusses making decisions while under extreme stress was taught by two former officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Along with the instructors from Ireland, international Riot attendees include representatives from Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong.

“The Mock Prison Riot is becoming a truly international event,” said Marc Caplan, chief, Operational Technologies Division, National Institute of Justice. “The Riot’s reputation is strong among the corrections and law enforcement community in the United States, and it’s branching out around the world.”

The Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC) Mock Prison Riot™ hosted 1687 corrections and law enforcement officers, a 17% increase over last year’s record attendance.

“The Mock Prison Riot is probably the most exhilarating and useful experience that a corrections officer could ever have,” said David Mason, team leader, Institutional Crisis Intervention Team from Ontario, Canada. “This is probably the only correctional event of this nature that I have seen in my career.”

The Riot also offered 80 scenarios for law enforcement and corrections officers.

Paul Simmons, captain of the West Virginia Department of Corrections special operations team said the team participated in a new addition to the Riot -- juvenile hall. “We really liked the APARTment [Area for Practical And Realistic Training],” he said. “It is really conducive to training and monitoring the team in real-time. The camera system allows us to monitor the scenario as it occurs, and it allows us to go over their actions with the team in detail.”

“Everyone I have spoken to sees this as something that is very valuable from a corrections and law enforcement standpoint,” said James L. Estep, WVHTC Foundation president and CEO. “That is really impressive.”

On Monday, the first-ever Command March took place. Participants in the Riot marched through the Moundsville business district in full tactical gear, offering area residents and children from three Moundsville schools the opportunity to see the men and women who attend the Mock Prison Riot.

On Tuesday evening, the first evening scenario featured the Wheeling, W.Va., police department and the Stark County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office raiding a simulated crack house set up inside the penitentiary walls. This was the first scenario designed specifically for law enforcement officers.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to utilize skills we have learned and a good opportunity to use different technologies,” said Lt. Tom Mitchell, Wheeling Police Department. “This was a chance to prepare for a realistic scenario and to work on our planning skills.”

“This year we utilized areas of the prison that we've never utilized before,” said Steve Morrison, interim director of OLETC. “We have many technologies that have never been here before.”

A record number of technologies were on hand for examination and use at the OLETC Mock Prison Riot™. Technologies included the Bombot, an explosives retrieval and examination device developed by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium (WVHTC) Foundation and used by coalition forces in Iraq.

John Evans from the Canadian Police Research Center thinks that the Mock Prison Riot is a good mix of technologists and practitioners. “Many tradeshows, the audience is either administrators or supervisors,” he said. “This is the actual people who are using the technologies, so it is a very good chance for the corrections officers to get a good feel for the products.”

“The mock exercises allow the corrections officers to not only practice,” he added, “it gives them the opportunity to compare strategies.”

OLETC is a program of the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and an initiative of the WVHTC Foundation.

Liz Cousins

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