West Bloomfield/Novi police departments' Special Response Team during a training session
West Bloomfield/Novi police departments' Special Response Team during a training session

Police emphasize security after Pittsburgh shootings.

Keri Guten Cohen

JN Story Development Editor

Those who drove past The Corners on Walnut Lake Road, west of Orchard Lake Road, in West Bloomfield Wednesday morning might have been surprised to see police vehicles outside. The Corners houses Temple Shir Shalom’s preschool and some nonprofit organizations.

After the shooting Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, a gathering like this raises questions.

Curt Lawson, deputy chief of the West Bloomfield Police Department, explained that the vehicles and officers were there as part of a special response team training held once a month at various locations. On Wednesday, The Corners was available, with permission from Shir Shalom.

Lawson said the 14-person collaborative team, made up of eight negotiators and six entry team members from the West Bloomfield and Novi police departments, got a “call” there was a barricaded gunman at the location. They had little knowledge beyond that, but the training exercise allowed them to see how well they would respond if they call had been real.

“They had to work through it, which they did very successfully,” Lawson said.

“Since the Tree of Life shooting, we have provided extra security to nine Jewish facilities in the township and, during Tuesday’s elections, we were at polling stations at any house of worship. We have great relationships with the synagogues and places of worship.”

The WBPD also has been talking to synagogues, churches, schools and businesses about limiting entry to one or two controlled areas, having visible security and upgrading surveillance systems, Lawson added.

“We’re really encouraging people in the community to be observant, aware of their surroundings and, if they see something, not to be afraid to call and we’ll check it out — it’s important to do,” he said.

The department also has been offering ALICE training in West Bloomfield schools to give students and teachers options if there is an assailant. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. Several officers are trained to teach it.

“It allows for more options, depending on the situation,” Lawson said.

Other measures include having electronic preplans available for vulnerable places in the community that allow officers to know what and where to go in a building ahead of time; a detective assigned to a joint terrorism task force in Detroit and Lonzo, one of nine police explosive detection dogs in the county.

“We think about this [security issues]; the chief and I lose sleep over it,” Lawson said. “We do what we can to keep up on it and keep everyone informed.”


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