July 20th, 2024

Training exercise prepares city agencies for protests

By Lethbridge Herald on October 25, 2023.

Police face actors playing the role of protestors during a training exercise Tuesday evening at the Lethbridge courthouse. The mock protest was a collaboration between the City of Lethbridge, the Lethbridge Police Service and Lethbridge College. Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The City of Lethbridge along with multiple agencies staged a training scenario outside of the Lethbridge courthouse Tuesday night to get better prepared in case of a hostile protest. 

Emergency Planning and Risk supervisor with the City of Lethbridge, Luke Palmer spoke to media Wednesday and said the training scenario showcased first responders working along city agencies and the Lethbridge courthouse. 

“We basically have our first responders working with other city administration, practicing out a scenario so we can make sure our plans are robust enough and account for everything that we have here in the city. We make sure that our response plans are valid and at the same time that our crews are getting the rigour behind it,” said Palmer. 

He said actors were utilized to give the scenario a realistic feel – post-secondary education students had the opportunity to play different roles and create stressful situations for first responders. 

“Last night was very successful considering the weather. We still went ahead with things and in terms of site management it was effectively controlled by our fire and police teams,” said Palmer. 

He said they also utilized Lethbridge College students, including journalism students who had the opportunity to conduct interviews with LPS members and take photos and videos of the mock scenario. 

“At the end of the day it’s now where we take the learning opportunities that we improve those for future needs, so this is a gap analysis we find out exactly where we have our gaps and we make sure that we’re rectifying those going forward to ensure we’re maintaining public safety,” said Palmer. 

Lethbridge Police Service Critical incident Unit Sergeant Denton Michelson told media they are always training because the police objective is to keep  citizens safe and the mock scenario allowed them to do that in conjunction with other first responders. 

“In Lethbridge we’ve had several protests over the last couple of weeks, so we’re always training for peaceful ones and ones that may be hostile,” said Michelson. 

He said LPS was represented by the tactical team, bomb squad, K9 unit, and Michelson said they had drones, negotiators and incident commanders present as well. 

“All in all, there’s probably about 50 people that were involved from Lethbridge Police Service in the training yesterday,” said Michelson. 

He said training scenarios are important for LPS to take part because they know that when incidents happen, they need to work as a team in order to manage the situation. 

“We always want to train on that so when the real call comes in we’re able to respond,” said Michelson. 

He said having the help of actors to create a realistic scenario was helpful. 

“Anytime we do reality-based training we want the stress to be there because we know in the real circumstances that there’s going to be stress there, so we try to encourage that and by having real actors and having a scenario as realistic as possible it kind of brings on that stress and it just makes the training more effective for us,” said Michelson. 

Lethbridge College instructor in the Digital Communication and Media department, Kris Hodgson-Bright said the experience was very helpful for the students career development. 

“As far as our involvement with digital communications media we had two roles, one where under the guidance of Martina Emard, students would actually cause chaos online, on social media channels, and the communications people from the City of Lethbridge had to respond to that as if it was an actual event,” said Hodgson-Bright. 

He added their other role was as reporters on-site doing interviews and students had the opportunity to conduct a press conference style interview with members of LPS.

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