GVPD focuses on officer safety

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - The Saturday night patrol unit poses for a photo outside of the Grand Valley police station on Oct. 25.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – The Saturday night patrol unit poses for a photo outside of the Grand Valley police station on Oct. 25.

Hannah Lentz

For Grand Valley State University police officers, employee safety comes down to a lot more than bulletproof vests and weapons, mainly focusing on being prepared for any situation. GVSU’s undergraduate population is just over 25,000 students. With such a large student body comes the need to be educated on and ready for a variety of topics.

GVPD officers receive between 50 and 80 hours of field training before practicing as an official officer. This includes tactical training as well a other situation-based coaching, with new elements being added to the curriculum each year.

Similar to the training seen in the Grand Rapids Police Department, the GVPD looks to the community to pinpoint repeated issues that need extra emphasis, Sgt. Nate Dornbos said. All 18 full-time police officers within the department have to go through training.

“We pay attention to outside sources and trends we see,” Dornbus said. “We look at how we can handle situations such as subject control and self defense in a way that benefits the community. The more we are are prepared, the more the community benefits.”

This year’s training included a variety of different elements including specific medical practice, education on handling violent behavior and a new segment regarding the neurology of trauma victims.

“We look at sexual assault, dating violence and stalking and see what we can do to help victims of these instances,” said Capt. Brandon DeHaan of the GVPD. “Victims sometimes display certain thoughts and behaviors that we can try to help them with. That’s part of what the training is for.”

Though there is an initial, in-depth training period, education and practice continues throughout the year for officers. During these sessions, officers are given additional materials on different subject matters including community interaction techniques, inclusion and equity approaches, training on working with mental health issues and many other topics.

“We cover a wide breadth of different subject matters,” Dornbus said. “All of these trainings have our officer’s safety and the community’s safety in mind.”

While GVPD does place emphasis on the use of ballistic armor for officers, the majority of trainings are spent with public benefit in mind, DeHaan said.

Training seminars are also available for a wide variety of age groups, lifestyles and venues. These programs include alcohol awareness, crime prevention, opportunities in criminal justice, fire safety, severe weather and an active shooter situation.

“Our overall goal with training is to provide knowledge and expertise to provide the best service to our diverse community,” DeHaan said. “We want to maintain a positive relationship between the community and law enforcement.”