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Ready for action, in need of funding

Special Response Team brings together region’s officers on high-risk cases, but equipment is paid for by donations — or the officers themselves

  • Sgt. Vint Boggis of the Peterborough Police Department and a member of the Monadnock Region Special Response Team demonstrates some of the equipment used by the team.
  • Sgt. Vint Boggis of the Peterborough Police Department and a member of the Monadnock Region Special Response Team demonstrates some of the equipment used by the team.
  • Sgt. Vint Boggis of the Peterborough Police Department, a member of the Monadnock Region Special Response Team, demonstrates some of the equipment used by the team.
  • Sgt. Vint Boggis of the Peterborough Police Department and a member of the Monadnock Region Special Response Team demonstrates some of the equipment used by the team.
  • Sgt. Vint Boggis of the Peterborough Police Department and a member of the Monadnock Region Special Response Team demonstrates some of the equipment used by the team.
  • Sgt. Vint Boggis of the Peterborough Police Department and a member of the Monadnock Region Special Response Team demonstrates some of the equipment used by the team.

Sgt. Vint Boggis of the Peterborough Police Department lays out his equipment. His level three body armor vest, capable of stopping rifle rounds, with extra guards for shoulders and groin. His helmet and gas mask. A Colt AR15 rifle. Outside, in the Peterborough impound lot, is a donated armored vehicle.

This is not the standard police-issue equipment. They’re the tools Boggis and the rest of the members of a specialized regional team will need when serving on a volunteer squad of officers who respond to high-risk situations that call for a higher level of training and equipment than that of the average police officer. And all of the equipment, including the armored van and weapons, have to be acquired by grant or donation, or paid for by the officers themselves.

In a show of support for the team, Monadnock Valley Beef and Bison of Hancock and Peterborough will be holding a barbecue to benefit the Monadnock Regional Special Response Team on Saturday. Residents can get a taste of bison chili, slow-cooked beef, as well as both beef and bison burgers. The barbecue will be held on the lawn in front of the Guernsey building at 70 Main St. in Peterborough, behind the Monadnock Center for History and Culture.

The team has been self-supported since it was first conceived several years ago, Boggis said Wednesday. Lt. Terry Choate of the Jaffrey Police Department suggested forming the regional response team, which is a step above the work of regular patrol officers in terms of training and outfitting. The team is currently in development, and is in the process of putting together a board of directors. As many as nine area towns are involved and the team is made up of approximately 13 members, according to Choate. Towns that participate in the response team include Jaffrey, Peterborough, Dublin, Wilton and Rindge. The Monadnock Regional team is meant to be an intermediary step between regular patrol officers and a full-fledged SWAT team, explained Choate. The Monadnock Regional group are called in to deal with higher-risk search and arrest warrants, or for suspects who have barricaded themselves — situations that are considered more dangerous than average day-to-day policing.

The team is not at the point of taking calls in an official capacity yet, said Choate, although some members have been able to put their specialized training to use in a few instances of mutual aid, for example on Oct. 17, when members of the team responded to Sharon for a barricaded suspect who had allegedly assaulted and threatened another with a gun. The man surrendered after a three-hour standoff with police.

Boggis pointed to the Sharon situation as one of the reasons such a team is a good addition to the area’s resources. There are other, similar teams around, he said, including one that covers the Keene area. Whereas calling one of those teams for assistance could take some time, members of the Monadnock Regional team were on the scene in Sharon with their specialized equipment and training within an hour . And that can make a difference in a situation with potential to go south very quickly.

Though many of the towns involved in the team are small, the need for a response team is no less, Boggis said. Greenland, which experienced a shootout in April 2012 between police and a suspect resulting in the death of Police Chief Michael Maloney and the injury of four other officers, is a smaller town than Peterborough, he noted. A response team is something that you don’t want to be in a position to need, and not have, Boggis said.

The Monadnock Regional Special Response Team is made up of all-volunteer members of area police departments who obtain additional training to deal with high-risk situations. Once up and running officially, the team will provide services to the cooperating towns, but also small towns that don’t participate in the program because their departments are too small. But in order to take on more dangerous situations, the team needs more specialized equipment and training, said Choate, and that doesn’t come cheap.

“Police Departments have very tight budgets right now, and to fund this type of specialty team is difficult,” he said. “For the most part, we fund ourselves. A lot of our equipment and training we pay for out of our own pockets. I know the stuff I have, I’ve bought out of my own wallet, and it’s the same with a lot of the other guys.”

One of the most avid supporters, said Choate, has been Rob Finlay, the owner of Monadnock Beef and Bison. “If it wasn’t for him, we probably wouldn’t exist right now,” Choate said. “He’s allowed us to get some top-notch training.” Other operations have been helping out as well, he added, by donating bullet-proof vests, as well as the response team’s armored vehicle as their own departments upgrade their equipment.

“It means everything to us,” said Choate of the donations. “I don’t even know how to say it. We can only fund so much of this out of your own wallet. It would be difficult for us to continue on without it.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Finlay said he heard about the group when it was first proposed, and became interested in what they were doing. He felt compelled to help when he saw how much of their own funds they were pouring into the team, he said.

“These guys are putting their lives in danger every day [as police officers],” said Finlay. “For them to go above and beyond, the very least I can do is support them. Try to think of any other job in the world where you have to pay to work to help your community. Hopefully, we’ll never need them. But in the even that we do, we want them to be well-trained and equipped.”

Finlay said that Saturday’s barbecue will be the first time he’ll be getting the local community involved in fundraising for the group. He hopes that the event will raise awareness about what the group does and their needs.

Donations to the response team go toward funding additional equipment, such as night vision, enhanced body armor and shields, helmets, goggles, communications equipment and surveillance equipment, as well as additional training. Especially training, said Choate. Some departments will pay the team members for their time during training, said Choate, and some don’t.

“More so than anything right now, we need the funds for training, and funds for ammunition. Our departments can’t afford to send us out as regularly as we probably should be for firearms training, because ammunition is expensive.”

The benefit barbecue take place Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets for the barbecue are $15 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free. Proceeds benefit the Monadnock Regional Special Response Team.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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