Decade following 9/11 brings positive changes for SMPD

The decade since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 has brought a number of changes to nearly every facet of Americans' lives. While these changes have been both good and bad, one area organization that has had a positive change is the City of St. Marys Police Department (SMPD). According to SMPD Chief Todd Caltagarone, police training has been steadily improving over the past several years."The Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission provides the basic guidelines in terms of required training that we receive annually," Caltagarone said. "Additionally, we supplement that with specialized training, so that we can bring needed services and capabilities to our community as it pertains to working and solving cases, and doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our community."This includes using the National Incident Management System and Incident Command to manage serious incidents. "With the heightened sense of security in our changed world, protocols call for a more robust and quick response to certain situations," Caltagarone said. Along with training, communication has also seen significant improvements. "We have much better ways of sharing information with not only law enforcement agencies, but other stakeholders as needed," Caltagarone said. "Almost daily we receive law enforcement-sensitive bulletins and reports from the Department of Homeland Security, and when necessary, from the State Police Intelligence Unit. Those reports potentially impact patrol and investigative methods for a period of time."Caltagarone also noted that the SMPD officers are members of other organizations that, among other things, include intelligence sharing and the ability to obtain vital information when needed."The local police chiefs and state police barracks commander meet monthly with the district attorney, where the agenda deals more with local issues that we are facing," Caltagarone said. "The county jail warden, his assistant and the sheriff also participate in that process." The department has also made strides over the last decade in terms of dealing with cyber crimes. "Our training and abilities with investigations concerning crimes committed via computer, internet, smart phones or any type of media have improved, but that seems to be a continuous journey as technology keeps increasing," Caltagarone said. "When it comes to forensic analysis of systems and hard drives, we resource experts in the field who are law enforcement."While the Patriot Act has generated some controversy since it was signed by former President George W. Bush on Oct. 26, 2001, and certain provisions were extended by current President Barack Obama on May 26, 2011, Caltagarone noted that it has not had much of an impact on the operation of the city's police force. "The Patriot Act has not had any real impact in terms of operational needs, but we are much more careful about disseminating certain information," Caltagarone said. One impact of 9/11 that was felt by the city's police department was the increased positive attitude toward law enforcement that swept the nation in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. "Post-9/11 attitudes were much more positive concerning the emergency service sector employees and volunteers," Caltagarone said. "However, attitudes about law enforcement ebb and flow, with general conditions across our country being a determinant factor."