With a number of incidents taking place this summer attracting various OPP teams and uniforms, some residents have been debating who’s who in the provincial police force.
The resources available to the OPP that have been called in this summer are part of a number of layers of the police force trained to respond to specific situations.
The call for extra support begins when police are called to an unusual incident such as a hostage situation, barricade, or stand-off.
“What happens is when there’s an incident reported, let’s say a barricaded person, the process is there’s a call to police, they contain the scene, and they call the sergeant or myself,” explained Fort Frances OPP S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis.
“At that point, there is a command post set up and we call the Emergency Response Team,” he added.
The ERT is the first line of specifically-trained officers on call for sensitive incidents that require special training. “The roles are very, very clearly defined,” S/Sgt. Dennis explained.
The ERT is made up of OPP officers across Northwestern Ontario with additional training. Here, the team is made up of 16 officers, including members from Kenora, Sioux Lookout, and Rainy River.
“It’s to provide a multi-faceted resource. There’s quite a selection process, including background investigation, above-average physical fitness, team player,” explained local ERT member and acting Sgt. Dave Saunders.
“There’s an interview selection and from there they get sent on a very intense ERT course,” he added. “It’s pretty demanding—you run every day.”
The course is a five-week training course which focuses on the needs of specific situations, including search-and-rescue, crowd management, VIP security, containing situations involving hostages, and high-risk arrests among others.
Once on the team, officers are required to attend two one-week refresher courses each year. “These teams are situated across the province,” noted Sgt. Saunders.
At the scene, the first ERT member to arrive knows exactly what to do first.
“Assessment is done by the first arriving members,” said Sgt. Saunders. “The first member on the scene knows exactly what information is required depending on the scene.”
Once the team arrives, the detachment commander or inspector in charge of the scene hands over command to an ERT incident commander.
Within the ERT, there also are specific officers with specific tasks, such as the OPP K-9 unit officers. “We don’t acknowledge the dog, he’ll bite you,” noted Sgt. Saunders.
Other officers with specific training outside of the ERT also are spread out across the region and the province, and are on call for incidents such as hostage situations or armed stand-offs.
They include negotiators and logistics officers.
“If there’s a barricaded person with a hostage, negotiators are called in, as well,” said S/Sgt. Dennis. “They work in three-person teams for relief and for communication at the scene.
Here, there is a negotiator in Rainy River, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout. Logistics officers also can be called to help organize a scene.
“Their responsibility is to provide supplies and accommodation to all the people and to track the cost,” noted S/Sgt Dennis. “Obviously if we have 12 people at a scene, we don’t want them tripping off to get something to eat.”
The next level of OPP resources in the Tactics and Response Unit (TRU), a complement of full-time, highly-trained officers based out of Barrie, Belleville, and London.
The TRU team is on call to drive or fly to any area in the province to resolve high-pressure, high-risk situations.
“Their role is very different,” noted S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis. “The ERT is for containment, the TRU team is for going into a situation and resolving it.”
The TRU teams—each comprised of 36 of the province’s best OPP officers and their own commanding officers—take over the scene from the ERT officers.
They are called upon to escort violent prisoners, for anti-terrorist measures, difficult rescue operations, and other volatile situations.
Following the resolution of any incident, the local investigative team returns to the scene to look at the evidence.
“The ultimate investigation is up to the local detectives,” explained S/Sgt. Dennis. “[But] after the incident, there’s support from the Crime Investigation Bureau based out of Orillia, with criminal investigation inspectors spread throughout the province.”