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Mock exercise provides police training

Photo by Elaine Rackley
Henry County Police Department (HCPD) officers handcuffed a man (center) whom they arrested as a murder suspect Wednesday, during a training exercise. HCPD Officer Damisi Gray (far left) talks with the victim's husband (far right). The mock murder crime scene was portrayed during the first HCPD Homicide Initial Response Training, at its training facility in the Ola community.

Photo by Elaine Rackley Henry County Police Department (HCPD) officers handcuffed a man (center) whom they arrested as a murder suspect Wednesday, during a training exercise. HCPD Officer Damisi Gray (far left) talks with the victim's husband (far right). The mock murder crime scene was portrayed during the first HCPD Homicide Initial Response Training, at its training facility in the Ola community.

By Elaine Rackley

erackley@henryherald.com

"Where is my daughter?" asked a frantic mother, as she questioned police. "What's going on?"

The house at 2650 Stroud Road, in the Ola community, was surrounded by police, patrol cars, and yellow crime tape.

The mother had called Henry County Police Wednesday, to conduct a welfare check on her daughter, Lindsey. She is worried because she knows Lindsey and her son-in-law were having volatile marital problems.

The middle-aged mother arrived at the house in the rural part of Henry County, frenzied.

She spots her son-in-law. He has a bandage wrapped around his bleeding right hand.

"You don't have to look at his hand, just let him bleed to death," she yells at an investigator, who is questioning the son-in-law.

Another officer approaches her as she asks, "Do y'all know what happened to Lindsey?"

"Not right now," responded the officer. He asked her to step aside as more officers arrived on the scene. She did, but continued to badger police about her daughter's whereabouts.

Activity at the house heightened as police conducted interviews. Two investigators were questioning a neighbor who lives down the street. Another pair of investigators questioned next-door neighbors.

Forty-five minutes passed, and suddenly a long, uninterrupted scream came from the girl's mother -- "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

She has just been told that the police found her daughter in her bedroom, murdered. Her throat had been cut.

The incident was not an actual crime scene. It was part of a recent mock murder scene, used to train Henry County Police in the department's first Homicide Initial Response Training.

"This is the first time we have ever used our training facility for such a large exercise," said Maj. Joe Jackson, who oversees the Henry County Police Department (HCPD) Criminal Investigation Division. Jackson has worked with the county police for just over two a years. He has worked with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for 32 years, in various departments including its narcotics and homicide departments.

In the last year, the Henry County Police Department has formed a special homicide response unit, which includes "senior trained and experienced detectives," said the major.

"Law enforcement face many such events that are identified as critical examples, as these might include...officer-involved shootings, active shooters at public venues, critical missing persons, or mass fatalities involving public transportation," said Jackson. "We must train for these so that our responses come as second nature."

According to Jackson, it was Henry County Police Chief Keith Nichols, who requested the entire police department take part in the homicide training.

The police chief described the benefits from the mock exercise as "tremendous."

"This exposes our personnel to the experience and knowledge that it takes to work a homicide to a successful conclusion," said Nichols. "The organizers have concentrated all facets of the drill from the initial actions of the responding officers to the direction of the detectives and crime scene technicians.

"Thankfully we don't have that many homicides in Henry County, but even so, if that victim is a family member, that will obviously have a huge impact on your life forever," added Nichols. "We know that the families will want justice to be served in this unfortunate event, and so do we."

"We took as realistic of a scenario as we could make it, to watch them respond just as they would on the job," said Maj. Jackson. "We are training them to use strategic and methodical techniques in handling a crime scene."

The four-hour mock exercise included four phases. Officers were evaluated on uniformed patrol division response, criminal investigation division response, crime scene response, and case response, said Jackson.

It began at the training property, where some of the officers met with Henry County Police Officer Roger Pike, inside one home, where he went over details of the mock homicide. Meanwhile, the homicide scenario was being played out at a nearby house on the property, where police collected evidence using gloves.

"They will do the first 60 minutes, on-site for training, this is the most highly critical time-frame for this type of event," explained Jackson.

He added that, from the time police found the victim with her throat slashed inside the house, the initial hour of the investigation at the crime scene revealed crucial evidence needed to establish an accurate summation.

Trainers, along with public safety officials, watched the investigators and patrol officers from a command post area, and assessed their work at the scene.

The trainees traveled to the police headquarters in McDonough for a review of their responses at the crime scene, and additional training, as well as presentations by Henry County Chief Asst. District Attorney Thomas McBerry, HCPD Lt. Christy Nebel, and GBI Special Agent Todd Crosby.