Capital News 9's Ken Jubie is taking part in a program called the Citizen's Police Academy, put on by the Albany Police Department. During the 14-week course, the class will learn about a variety of aspects of police work and get some hands-on experience. The stories will air on Capital News 9 Friday nights and throughout the weekends.
Updated 05/26/2009 04:16 PM
Behind the Badge: Emergency Service Team
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The sound is the last thing a criminal wants to hear. It means the Emergency Service Team is coming for them.
The EST is Albany's version of a SWAT Team- intensely trained, highly-skilled and well-armed officers called in on high-risk operations, including when armed criminals are holed up in houses or hostage situations.
Emergency Service Team Leader Det. Ken Koonz said, "These critical incidents, they're fast paced, they're very stressful, and you need someone with a solid foundation and a body of experience to operate effectively."
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That's why only the best of the best make the 25 person team. All officers have to pass the same physical tests. There are no age or gender adjustments, and no excuses.
Koonz said, "We're constantly pushing and prodding one another to make the team better than it is. And you do that by not having a glass ceiling above you."
These officers take on the responsibility on top of their everyday roles on the force.
Koonz said, "We have very new patrolmen and we have senior detectives as well as sergeants within supervisory ranks."
Citizens Police Academy student Jean Gannon said, "It just never occurred to me that we'd be expecting this caliber of job from people who are doing it as an extra duty."
To get a sense of what life on the EST is like, Koonz and Officer Hayden Butterfield gave us a chance to try some of the tools of their trade, starting with putting on about 40 pounds of protective gear.
Gannon said, "I think I'd be exhausted just getting to the door, and to know that's not where it stops, that's just the beginning."
We also got our hands on sniper rifles and learned about the chemical agents officers use to force suspects out of barricaded hideouts.
Koonz said, "It burns all the mucus membranes. Very difficult to breathe. It burns your eyes."
And while they're equipped and prepared to engaged an armed criminal, the goal is to draw that person into the open.
Koonz said, "If Ken Jubie is inside with a weapon, he has a firearm. I don't want to, nor do I want anyone on our team to go in there and confront him in close quarters inside a confined space like that. There's no reason to."
As we found out during a simulated hostage situation, if it comes down to it, the first thing they send in is a special camera ball.
The lens rotates and can zoom in, so officers can get a good look at the room and people in it.
Koonz said, "If there's someone with a weapon and they want to shoot our camera system, have at it. It's only going to tell me a couple of things - that you're armed and you're inside the location, but you're not going to hurt any of our people."
In our scenario, two hostages were going to be harmed and I was sent in to stop it.
Doing that even in a controlled environment is very difficult. You don't have a chance to think necessarily about anything but hitting that target and trying to save the people.
Koonz said, "The motto that we live by is: mission, men, myself. We always put the mission first. The men, the people that serve under you come next, then you take care of your own needs last."
And he says anytime the merits of that motto are met and lives are saved, for the Emergency Service Team, it's mission accomplished.