Larceny. Drugs. Violent crime. These are all signs of a town with a stressed economy. Mix these problems with a natural disaster, put the town next to a large city, and you have a disturbing potential. But progressive thinking combined with advanced tactics, training and equipment has helped maintain law and order in Greenwood, IN.
New Chief, New Tactics
Criminals from Indianapolis’ south side challenged Greenwood’s peaceful reputation until the mayor recognized the threat four years ago and took action. He appointed Chief Joseph Pitcher, whose decorated career includes service as an urban patrol officer and a state trooper. To add, he is also an attorney.
“He’s not afraid of being sued,” says Commander Matthew Fillenwarth. “He knows there will be lawsuits but he doesn’t allow the threat of one to hinder the way we serve our community.”
Greenwood’s Chief Pitcher has brought in a lot of outside ideas to fight the overflow of crime from Indianapolis. “We focus more on aggressive traffic control at night,” Pitcher says. “Criminals usually drive to their crime. If we check out a vehicle with a broken light or catch someone rolling through a stop sign, we’ll offer a warning in order to gain a positive ID check. In many of these cases, we discover there is more, often turning up a drunk driver or stolen vehicle.”
Criminals from Indianapolis used to take advantage of Greenwood’s proximity. Indiana’s largest mall sits in Greenwood along County Line Road. This is a tempting target for much of Indianapolis’ criminal overflow. Violence threatened mall shoppers late at night and robberies of banks along the county line were difficult to prevent. Reports indicated repeat criminals making it back to Indianapolis with as much as $100,000 on a single vault hit.
Four years ago, any of Greenwood’s 33 banks were vulnerable to a robbery. This year, there has only been a single occurrence. “We kept an extra pool of marked cars for emergencies,” says Pitcher. “When I came on with GPD, I started placing these cars in parking lots of banks and maintaining a constant uniformed presence inside and outside the mall. We are now proactive, not reactive.”
Commander Fillenwarth noted, “This has had a chilling effect on the criminal mindset. A suspect caught on the north side of Indianapolis told authorities that he didn’t hit a bank here because of the parked police cars. He said, ‘I didn’t want to take the chance.’”
Guarding Against Terror
GPD is armed and ready to protect against a terror attack. Working in conjunction with the fire department, members of the ERT (Emergency Response Team) include fire fighters who are cross-trained to respond and communicate with the SRT, FBI and DEA tactical teams. “Anytime the tactical team goes out for training or on a call, at least one of the specially trained firefighters goes out with them,” says Fillenwarth.
The Greenwood ERT converted a former firearms range into an indoor training facility that they use weekly to sharpen their skills. Simunitions, moveable walls and padded furniture are used to set up different scenarios while a 25-yard range accommodates mechanical targets that charge and move laterally. Several times a year, the SRT goes out to the mall and to a high school for active shooter training, familiarizing themselves with the exact locations such an incident would likely occur.
Deployed from the fire department is an advanced terror-response vehicle worth more than a half-million dollars. Working in tandem, the police and fire departments know how to set up command centers and respond to large disasters, even those involving HAZMAT. Officers will train with their firearms and practice first aid while in a full suit capable of withstanding contamination. “We’re the first responders if an attack were to occur north in Indianapolis,” says Pitcher. “Our police officers are trained to seal the entrances at the dome and to protect fire crews while encapsulated in suits.”
Tactical Team Hardware
The Greenwood ERT has more than 1,400 hours of specialized training from all over the country and deploys at least once each week. Due to the ERT’s role in responding to a HAZMAT call, team members also learn to work in a gaseous environment. “Training gets a little more serious when guys are surrounded by CS in a gaseous environment,” says Fillenwarth. “Even if you’re training in CS, you’re going to have to learn how to decon[taminate].”
CARBINES: For situations calling for greater range and velocity, the ERT is issued Bushmaster M4s with a C-More red dot sight, loaded with Federal bonded ammo. ERT members are allowed to use a different carbine and red dot, and many do. On hand for deployment were examples produced by LMT, Rock River, Smith & Wesson, and Robinson Armament. Because the ERT is used to being called out for situations lasting hours at a time, the equipment each officer carries is carefully evaluated and selected. “When some officers join the ERT they get eager to attach a lot of equipment to their M4s, but I recall many times when I’ve heard stuff fall to the ground, says Fillenwarth. “If a piece of equipment stands the test of a 4-hour barricaded suicide situation, it will probably remain on the gun,” he concludes. Besides a C-More optic or an Aimpoint, most rifles had a flashlight and some a vertical foregrip. Many officers elect to have a light that can be adapted to their Glock rail and models from Streamlight, SureFire and Insight were equally common.
The team as a whole recently evaluated the Robinson XCR-L chambered in 5.56 NATO. This rifle features a folding stock, five-setting gas adjustment and the test sample carried a 10.5-inch barrel. This unique rifle combines desirable elements from the AR and AK-style rifles and puts them together in a modular package. ERT-member Officer Joey Rodriguez described the evaluation: “We ran it hard. Once we verified the zero and checked its accuracy, we fed it 650 rounds in two hours with just one malfunction. We were shooting it as fast as we could and it did well.” Many of the tactical team members reported that they felt less recoil than an AR and that it was more controllable than the AR when fired full-auto. A few officers later speculated that they wouldn’t be surprised if they started seeing the Robinson XCR-L report for duty.
S.W.A.T. TRUCK: A new S.W.A.T. truck from Supreme Specialty Vehicles delivers the ERT to a scene. Greenwood ordered the latest model built on a Chevy 3500 chassis which, at a glance, looks like a delivery truck. Greenwood’s will be without markings, which will help to ensure a covert deployment as long as possible. The ERT vehicle was custom ordered to include a reinforced roof for sniper cover, a ladder for multi-story entry and air conditioning. ERT member Officer Kelly says, “We’ve rolled up to a barricaded subject many times and we have to wait for negotiations. In the winter, you can wait for hours and think, ‘How do I pull the trigger if I can’t feel my fingers?’ In the summer, you can dehydrate wearing all that gear when there’s no A/C.”
GLOCK SIDEARM: Like patrol officers, the members of Greenwood’s ERT depend on a Glock 22 or Glock 23 chambered in .40 S&W. Using Federal’s 165-grain bonded ammunition, this combination has proven extremely effective. “We have had a few situations recently calling on an officer to use his sidearm and this Federal cartridge has been extremely reliable in addressing a threat,” says Fillenwarth. When TW interviewed the ERT members, they unanimously praised the Glock’s performance.
TASER POWER: Even though officers are prepared to defend themselves with their Glocks, the Taser X26 is the tool on their belt that gets the most use. The Greenwood PD reports that a Taser is used to subdue a suspect at least once a week. Many of the aggressive and non-compliant suspects are intoxicated or mentally ill. Before adding shock therapy to their duty belt, each officer has to take a “ride” to understand the effects and use of this less-lethal product. Chief Pitcher says, “We get less complaints by turning to the Taser instead of a baton or spray. Rarely does it take more than two hits with a Taser for a suspect to comply. Ironically, we actually get people apologizing after they’ve been hit with the Taser.” Speaking with a few patrolmen, it also proved beneficial to the officer and the community when the Taser was chosen over a baton, spray or K-9. “It takes a toll on manpower if the officer has to sit with the suspect in a hospital, sometimes hours,” says Fillenwarth. “With the Taser, they recover immediately and go straight to lock-up.”
SNIPER RIFLES: Greenwood’s ERT includes two snipers that carry a Remington 700P LTR with a Harris bipod and Leupold scope. The overall profile and slim stock is easily portable in the trunk of their take-home vehicle, as they are prepared to respond 24 hours a day. Each sniper zeroes their rifle with Black Hills .308 match ammunition at 100 yards. Satisfied with the accuracy, each sniper gladly showed me a nickel shot with the rifle from 100 yards.
SHOTGUNS: Remington 870s are frequently carried to calls where an entry has to be made. Fillenwarth states, “We send out most of our shotguns to Scattergun Technologies where they are chopped, given an extra-power magazine spring, Hi-Viz follower, and their Armor-Tuff finish. None of them rust.” Depending on the situation, officers will load either reduced-recoil “00” or slugs.
It’s become common for departments to expect a natural disaster of some type. For 2008, that came in the form of torrential rains that ravaged the Midwest and threatened Greenwood, IN. Seven inches of rain in four hours didn’t impact Greenwood-proper as it did surrounding areas, but the call for disaster service was still made. The neighboring town of Franklin wasn’t so fortunate, as their creek turned into a raging river and destroyed the county prosecutor’s building, the police station, homes and cars. Police cars were moved and propped up on fences while two were washed away, not to be found. Greenwood extended their support and patrol cars to the distraught town.
A Safer Tomorrow
GPD’s outreach programs have helped to promote the positive image of the department and educate the community. The Citizen’s Academy has already proven successful as many of its graduates serve as community leaders, reporting suspicious activities before a crime is committed. A neighborhood of 50 immigrants from India recently drove out a gang of 15 known as JATT who were attempting to recruit youths in the area.
GPD averages nearly 30,000 service calls each year and more than 20,000 emergency 911 calls. Three out of five offenses are committed by someone other than a resident of Greenwood. With just 51 uniformed officers and six openings, GPD is a fine illustration of a progressive department using modern tactics and tools to efficiently and effectively combat criminal intruders.
ROBINSON ARMAMENT XCR
The fundamental qualities of the Robinson Armament XCR make it an obvious consideration for a unit or agency looking to upgrade their duty carbines. The world-class dependability of the AK action inspires confidence in this piston-driven duty rifle, while the ergonomics and modularity makes it practical for mission-specific requirements. Standard features include a 16-inch barrel, a rotating bolt and extractor assembly, a five-position gas regulator, two-stage trigger and many ambidextrous qualities. The stock folds to the right, shortening the overall-length to a mere 27.4 inches. A full-length Picatinny rail ensures any optics can be appropriately mounted, while iron sights can be positioned along the top of the receiver for optimal sight radius. After an intense evaluation of a 10.5-inch select-fire model, a few officers appreciated the modularity that permitted them to attach products currently on their M4s, if they chose to switch. Disassembly was straightforward and the rifle required little cleaning after digesting an array of branded ammo. XCR rifles are now available in a number of calibers including 5.56 NATO, 6.8 SPC, 6.5x39mm and 7.62x39mm.
Caliber: 5.56 NATO, 6.8 SPC, 6.5x39mm, 7.62x39mm
Barrel: 16.02 in. (standard), chrome-lined
Action: Gas operated, piston driven
Gas Adjustment: Five position, gas valve with position for suppressors
Overall Length: 37.75 in., 27.4 in. (stock folded)
Weight Empty: 7.5 lbs.
Trigger: Two stage (single stage available to Mil/LE)
Magazines: Accepts M16 feeding devices
Visit www.robarm.com for more information on the XCR!