Canadian police engineer anti-terrorism plan

(The following story by Roger Knox appeared on the Vernon Morning Star website on June 22, 2009.)

VERNON, B.C. — Police dressed in dark-clad gear with helmets and protective vests, and armed with semi-automatic weapons, drew a bead on an aging blue locomotive in the Kelowna Pacific Railway yard near Okanagan Spring Brewery Wednesday.

And hardly anyone from the public noticed, which means the Kelowna-based RCMP SouthEast District’s Emergency Response Team’s (ERT) latest training session was successful.

“We were doing a tactical training scenario,” explained Insp. Randy Kolibaba, former head of the Vernon RCMP detachment and now the incident commander for the SouthEast ERT team.

“The ERT has to have the capacity and operational readiness to deal with a multitude of threat levels. Today was an example of taking on a different threat level with a different scenario in a different location.”

Wednesday, the team partnered with Canadian National railway police, Kelowna Pacific Railway, Transport Canada and the RCMP to conduct a training scenario focusing on a threat to a community involving a train.

The practice took place in the Kelowna Pacific yard, and also utilized Polson Park.

“For obvious reasons, we won’t get into the dynamics of the scenario, but trains offer a different vehicle for people involved in terrorism, different kinds of threats,” said Kolibaba.

“A lot of what we do is look at different scenarios whether it be at a school, a commercial venue or, in this case, a train.”

Close to 25 people, including 19 ERT members, along with CN police, and Transport Canada and Kelowna Pacific staff, took part in the training. Nobody, including Kolibaba, was given any information about what the scenario entailed.

With the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and Paralympics just a few months away, police officers are stepping up their training.

“We’re coming up to the Olympics which will put us on the international stage, so it’s important that the RCMP be in a position not only tactically, but strategically, to deal with threats and different threat levels,” said Kolibaba.

“We train quite regularly, and there is a great deal of training not just for the Olympics, but ongoing training to make sure we can respond to various public safety issues.

“This is just one more example of that.”

The partners picked the location, which is mere blocks away from Vernon’s downtown district, and the public was not alerted that such a training session was actually going on.

“We don’t do that because we don’t want to draw a lot of attention to it,” said Kolibaba.

“Where we were today, we didn’t want bystanders to stop and cause traffic issues, which would be creating more of a hazard to the public.

“A lot of time when we train we don’t want people to see our tactics for obvious reasons. It’s important we practise effectively and efficiently.”

A couple of people, however, did happen to notice RCMP officers with their weapons drawn.

“It would be a little bit of an understatement to say that they were surprised,” smiled Kolibaba.

“We explained to them what we were doing, that we’re RCMP and we’re in training.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

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