Law enforcement members from across the globe joined ranks for training in De Pere
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE — Law enforcement from more than a dozen countries and five continents joined forces recently in De Pere for a week of sharing their skills and experiences with like-minded souls.
International Police Association (IPA) President Joe Johnson said by the second night, you’d have been hard pressed to believe these IPA members were strangers the day prior.
“There’s a bond in law enforcement where we look at each other as brothers and sisters, as family, and we come together quickly with that common bond and use these opportunities to learn as much as we can,” Johnson, a police officer with the De Pere Police Department, said.
The IPA boasts 400,000 members worldwide, with 5,500 in the United States.
Countries represented included Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Gibraltar, Japan, Kenya, Moldova, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
They ranged from first-year recruits to chief superintendents.
During the week-long meeting of the minds, officers got a chance to sample new technology, learn how to properly handcuff cooperative and uncooperative individuals, practice-shoot guns and gather some officer-wellness tips – returning to their home departments with a fresh, new set of tools in their resources toolbox.
Johnson said it’s no secret the past few years have been stressful for a variety of reasons.
“They learned ways to take care of themselves and can share that with their departments at home,” he said.
Officers took to the hallways and classrooms of West De Pere High School to train for active-threat situations, including how to navigate corridors and T-intersections, enter rooms safely and manage doorways.
Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officer Jeremy Stover, the afternoon’s instructor, said simple acts like opening doors, done unwittingly, can get people killed if an active threat is inside.
“Doorways always trap us,” Stover told his charges. “There’s nowhere to go if you’re in a doorway. If there’s someone waiting for you (in the room) to shoot, we don’t want to be in the doorway, because there is nowhere to go that is good.”
He calls them a no-go zone.
Hallways, Stover said, are another area of concern.
“If you think about it,” he said, “there’s no cover.”
Officer rehearsed in teams of two, three and more, creeping down corridors lined with lockers – their heads on oscillation mode as they pointed inert plastic guns in front of them.
All officers participated in the training, regardless if their area of residence had issues with school shootings or not.
Masaomi Kawaguchi, a crime investigator from Tokyo, said he made the trip to IPA to meet others in law enforcement.
“I want to create relationships with police from all over the world,” he said.
Sven Kaegi, from St. Gallen, Switzerland, said he deals with more knife crimes than gun crimes.
“The daily business (of being a cop) is basically the same,” he said.
Kaegi said he appreciates how American cops aren’t afraid to try new things.
“This idea of innovation, it seems like here when they see something new they are like, ‘OK, let’s just try this,’” he said. “Back home, it’s like ‘Hmm, it’s probably not going to work. There needs to be some studies done.’”
Kaegi said he’s going to try to imbue his work with more of that spirit of innovation.
Rio de Janeiro Federal Highway Patrol Officer Leticia Romano works in the favelas, which she said has its own challenges.
Romano said she found the week with fellow police helpful.
“We are all from different places, we all have different realities and it’s really nice to share an experience and realize what you are doing in common,” she said. “And see the things that you do differently and the reason why. Sometimes you just say ‘Yes, that’s true, maybe I should do it like that.’ Keep your mind open.”
Romano said even though their jobs differ, law enforcement officers everywhere experience many of the same issues.
Doorways, for example.
She said entering an unfamiliar place not knowing what they’ll find, never seeming to have enough room to maneuver, is a huge risk.
“We take risks; sometimes the risks are different and that’s why you just choose differently,” she said. “We’re always in situations that we’ve never done before but you figure it out. You ask someone.”
Johnson said pretty much everyone who travels to these conferences is open-minded.
“There may be drastically different levels of experience, but everybody comes in open-minded, wanting to learn,” he said. “They are like sponges. They want to soak up every opportunity that they can. These programs are a success because of that attitude that they bring to the program.”
Throughout the week, 35 officers from 15 countries explored topics such as defensive tactics, firearms, tactical first aid, active shooter response, officer wellness training and gang training.
The week-long training session, of course, also included a trip to Lambeau Field, as well as a handful of other sightseeing spots throughout the area.