Why So Many Police?
By: Former Chief Todd Feyrer
On January 23, 2008 the Antrim Police Department was faced with a burglary in progress at 42 Main Street, the Mill Building. With police in town from all over the area and town curiosity at its peak, the questions were asked: Why were there so many police? Why didn’t officers enter the building on their own? Was the SWAT Team really necessary? Believe it or not, I ask these same questions and many more in order to determine the proper response to any given situation. It is my goal with this article to shed some light on these questions. I hope to help you understand that police response to any incident, motor vehicle stop, or arrest, is a very dynamic situation that can change at a moments notice. It is our job as police to prepare for these situations and handle them in the safest way
This extremely large building had been broken into on numerous instances over the past two months in what appeared to be a very deliberate attempt to strip copper wire and scrap metal for profit. These particular crimes are becoming more and more prevalent and sometimes very difficult to solve. This individual is believed to be solely responsible for taking approximately $2,000 - $5,000 worth of copper wire and metal. In addition, damages to the building are estimated to be over $41,000! It is difficult to conceive how so much damage could have taken place, when the return was much less. We have learned that although a three-foot piece of cable may be fenced for a small amount of money – maybe $30-$40, the entire 400 foot cable is now useless and a new cable must be installed at a significant cost.
Breaker boxes with a very small amount of copper wiring taken from inside are now useless and cost over $5,300 to replace.
As I mentioned previously, this is an extremely large building with three floors and endless places for someone to hide or exit the building from one location while officers are searching in another location. This brings me to the point of securing the perimeter once the suspect is seen entering the building. As we all know, the Antrim Police Department is a very small agency with normally one officer on duty at a time. It would have been extremely impractical, unsafe, and foolish for one officer, in this instance it was Officer Cavanaugh, to follow the suspect by crossing a small foot bridge, traversing around the edge of the building right next to the river and climb up and enter through a broken window. Not to mention that once in the building the suspect could have gone anywhere. As any well trained officer
would do, Officer Cavanaugh thought ahead thinking about the consequences if he were to enter the building. Could the suspect escape through a different location, never to be seen again as he now knows the police are on to him? Could the suspect be hiding in some unknown location, waiting to ambush him? Does the suspect have a weapon? Are there other suspects that he is working with, which could pose a danger to him on the outside? Am I practicing good officer safety if I enter the building?
These questions may portray officers as being paranoid or not willing to “run in with guns blazing” as portrayed in many movies. However, I say these questions are posed with reality and after history has taught us better. As noted in the Officer Down Memorial Page (www.odmp.org), 181 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2007. 64 of these tragic deaths were caused by gunfire, second only to automobile accidents with 47 deaths. There have already been 18 officers killed in the line of duty in 2008. Six of these incidents were from gunfire. With these statistics in mind, coupled with our training and experience, it is important for us to err on the side of caution and have too many police, rather than not enough.
Regardless of the size of the police department, most agencies rely on mutual aid assistance from other jurisdictions. This is especially true for those smaller agencies like the Antrim Police Department, with far less manpower and resources to draw from. In this situation we needed enough officers to not only secure the outside of the building, but to enter the building. To enter a building safely during a tactical situation requires specialized training, which in this instance was the Keene SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) Team. It is their protocol to activate the South Western NH SOU (Special Operations Unit) to assist them with a building of this size.
Although I have been a police officer for almost 13 years, I can honestly say that the logistics and planning of this situation was one of the largest I have personally been involved with. The feeling of working “alone” in a small town was quickly dissolved with the cooperation from all those agencies that assisted us in resolving this incident.
There is no arguing the fact that at 7:00 am on January 23, 2008 downtown Antrim was flooded with police officers and cruisers from all over the place. WMUR Channel 9 was anxiously waiting on Main Street to put the story on the morning news, while the phones were ringing off the hook from the local newspapers. On January 24, 2008 the Town was back to normal and I am extremely grateful to those who helped us end the burglary spree in a safe manner.