Officers get hands-on training in missing persons searches

By Douglas McCulloch | Feb 13, 2018
Courtesy of: Scott Affonce Scott Affonce, Robert McDonnell from Halifax, Kevin McCarthy from Hansen, Jason Laplante from Taunton, and James Casey from Rehoboth with Safety Net receivers.

Law enforcement officers from across the region descended upon Dartmouth’s Cornell Farm and Little River Reserve on February 13 outfitted to scour the dense woodlands for a missing person.

That person turned out to be one of Dartmouth’s own police officers, Scott Affonce, and he was not really missing, but instead leading valuable hands-on training using the latest technology to find at-risk people who wander off.

Affonce, joined by Dartmouth officer Justin Fonseca, was one of two officers donning special Project Lifesaver SafetyNet bracelets outfitted with a wireless radio transmitter. The devices operate similar to LoJack, emitting a signal that officers can track using special equipment.

The device hones in on the unique radio frequency assigned to each bracelet. The hardware used by search and rescue teams then reacts as officers get closer to the signal.

“You tune it like an old fashion radio, and as soon as you get closer to the signal it gets stronger,” Affonce said.

At the February 13 training exercise, teams of officers took turns searching for Affonce, who concealed himself behind a stone wall deep in the reserve.

“They found us in less than an hour,” Affonce said.

The devices are ideal for populations at heightened risk to wander off, like those suffering from autism and dementia.

In addition to learning about the hardware, training exercises also provide search-and-rescue teams and leaders with valuable hands-on experience in both leading and participating in an operation, Affonce said.

Officers from across the region participated as part of the South Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (SEMLEC). The organization is a partnership between southeastern Massachusetts police departments to provide resources in situations such as missing persons searches and special weapons and tactics (SWAT) operations.

Officers make their way over the drawbridge during the search. (Courtesy of: Scott Affonce)
SEMLEC brought its vehicles to the training exercise. (Courtesy of: Scott Affonce)
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