Police chief shares handling of past Norwalk strike situations

Norwalk's SRT includes seven officers, a hostage negotiator and two paramedics. Two of the officers are trained sharp shooters.
Cary Ashby
Aug 24, 2014

 

"Train, train, train."

That's the name of the game for the Norwalk Police Department when it comes to officers responding to and handling complaints and community unrest.

"You have to train, train, train. That's what we do here all the time," Chief Dave Light said.

The chief emphasized you can't give an officer special response team equipment, such as riot gear, and send him or her into a volatile situation without the proper training.

"You're facing bigger problems and lawsuits," Light said.

Norwalk's SRT includes seven officers, a hostage negotiator and two paramedics. Two of the officers are trained sharp shooters.

"They've been to about every sniper school we find," Light said.

Each of the SRT members are part of the Ohio Tactical Officers Association.

Light, when sharing his thoughts with the Reflector on the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., was asked if he had any experience with racial tension in Norwalk. (See the sidebar for the chief's comments.)

"I can't think of any. In the 30 years I've been here (in the department), I can't remember any," he said. "I can't even think of the last time we have investigated a racially-motivated incident."

Light said one of the advantages Norwalk officers have in dealing with the public is they know the local citizens and often have mutual friends, have worked together, coach their children or are members of the same organization or sports team. The chief said ultimately that means police can reason with people and situations don't get out of hand.

"Norwalk is full of a lot of good people," Light added.

Unlike the recent riots and demonstrations in Ferguson, Light said most of the incidents of civil unrest in Norwalk have been related to labor strikes. The chief shared his memories of some of those incidents.

In the late 1990s when there was a Janesville strike. Mike Ruggles was the chief at the time.

"We were notified by the management that things might get out of control," Light said.

Eight SRT members responded. Police estimate several hundred people were involved in the demonstration, with 70 or 80 residents at each site. Light said an officer videotaped what happened from the top of the SRT van so police would have evidence of the circumstances.

Capt. Mike Conney, who leads the SRT, said police probably wouldn't have had to be involved if some of the demonstrators hadn't formed a human chain to keep trucks from leaving the Janesville facility.

"We had people around the clock for a few days," Light said, noting there eventually was one officer overseeing the situation per shift. "That pretty much calmed things down."

About the late 1980s or early 1990s, police responded to a contract strike at Norwalk Furniture.

"I worked there for 10 years. My dad worked there for 36 years. He was management; I was in the factory," said Light, who again pointed out that experience helped police handle the situation.

Light and Conney said the only memorable experience during the Norwalk Furniture strike was someone threw something at a manager's vehicle, but there was no damage.

"You're just there to keep the peace," Light said.

About 1988, truck parts manufacturer Sheller-Globe Corp. brought in non-union workers who crossed the picket line during a strike. Sheller-Globe was at the Garfield Street facility which later housed Mayflower and Commercial Vehicle Group.

"That was the most tense of everything," Light said.

The chief said Sheller-Globe hired Knuckles Security to protect the "scab workers" and the Knuckles guards were large, intimidating men who just came from a similar situation in Kentucky coal mines. He recalled the security guards drove trucks with bullet holes caused by the mine workers who shot at the vehicles.

"They were dealing with a lot of workers. They did more to antagonize (things) than help," Light said.

"That got pretty heated. That went on for several days," he added. "We didn't have (the) SRT at the time. Every officer had a riot helmet and shield."

Light and Conney laughed about one situation when the Sheller-Globe union workers surged on the street as a manager drove down Garfield Street. Light said the demonstrators surrounded the vehicle, pushed officers and the Knuckles guards and then by the time the crowd stepped away from the car, all the tires were flat.

"You couldn't even see who did it," he added.

Comments

earlduck

enough already on our bad a$$ police,letem go back to being small town cops,few drunks,few junkies and wife beaters

itsoknow67

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

Long Duck Dong's picture
Long Duck Dong

Scratch the lol. My mistake, I thought he was just joking around with a sick mind. Didn't realize it was meant to be serious. Either way, I shouldn't have chuckled.

tmann4664

Wow ItsokNow. Another tough guy hiding behind a computer screen. I just love how people like you hide behind a computer screen and talk crap. Get busted for heroin or something ? These guys are out there everyday putting their lives on the line all acroos this country, even in small towns like Norwalk sometimes. And I bet if your life is in jeopardy, the first call you will make will be to the police department. I for one, have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone that chooses to be a police officer today. Dave Light is a upstanding Man, and i can tell by reading your post, that you are FAR FROM that. In fact, you are at the other end of the spectrum. So if life hands you a situation where you need a police officer, why don't you put your "REAL NAME" on here so they can just ignore your call. You hide behind the screen PU$$y.

Cliff Cannon

@tmann4664 : " Dave Light is a upstanding Man " Amen

ISPSP

You have to give Cliff Cannon credit... He posts under his name. That said, you chastise Itsoknow for posting anonymously...and you post with the screen name tmann4664..... Pot and kettle.

JakeMac25

I'm still calling the A Team.

KURTje

Wow...you disrespect Officer Conney? Hate Marines?

lugnut2511

All this for the HUGE city of Norwalk! What a freak'n job!!

Stonybaby

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

yoside199

If God forbid a situation occurs that we need the Police department to rise to the occasion to use the military weapons they have procured then all hell has arrived. How ever if they used that force against the general population they will be out gunned and out manned. They and their families will be in jeopardy. No SRT team of 7
or 11 would have a chance.Lets pray it never gets to that. Glad I got my weapons though.

Foodforthought

As for Ferguson, the police officer acted in self defense. If that punk kid would have listened to begin with he would be alive. But he didnt, he punched and committed a felony. At his weight and size the officer's life was in jeopardy. Brown killed himself. And for the rioters, every single one who was involved also committed crimes and should be punished! There is a huge difference between a peaceful protest and acting like a bunch of hoodlums.

luvblues2

There is no reason to militarize small town cops. None. Norwalk needs snipers and military vehicles like it needs more of the same crap it has already.

Cliff Cannon

@luvblues2: Between Detroit and Toledo some 500,000 Muslim's live. Our own CIA estimates that 10% percent of Muslims are Al-Qaeda sympathizers. While 1 to 2 % are Al-Qaeda active.

If the CIA is correct that means with in a 2 hour drive 5 to 10,000 people would like nothing better than to see you dead. While 50,000 people would be o.k. with you being dead.

There are 2 really delicious targets for mayhem and destruction in our back yard. One is called " Cedar Point " the other " Davis-Besse " nuclear plant.

So if you ask me. I'd say thanks Chief Light for training our officers today, for the unspeakable challenges of tomorrow

swiss family

You had better stay inside today... I think the sky is FALLING !!!!!!!!!

scooter58

Cliff, I won't question your statistics or interpretation, though they may be spot on. There are plenty here who will do that, I am sure. In terms of targets, I definitely agree with Cedar Point, but am not so sure about Davis-Besse. Unless they want to steal spent fuel rods and kill themselves in the process by exposure, I'm not so sure it's as big of a target as some might think. The actual reactor chamber is relatively small and very well encased, and with the redundant safety systems in place, it just would not be practical to produce a big, fancy explosion. Normally, we see big, high victim, in your face, type attacks. On a busy weekend the Sandusky Mall would have a bigger impact. We won't provide a list of possible targets, but there just aren't that many around here, and I too am thankful for the training and capabilities of Chief Light and his team.

modern concrete

You couldn't attack Davis Besse and get to the reactor. The containment building is built to take a plane's impact. The containment building has already been hit by a tornado and had no effect on the building or the reactor. Plus all the armed guards around the protector area. The type of people that would have the money to break through those barriers would have equipment that would also destroy Norwalk, Ohio disaster plan.

Cliff Cannon

@scooter58 & modern concrete : There are few times in public debate, where one hopes like hades they are wrong. Here is one. For I hope, pray and plead I am wrong about the potential targets for mayhem I mentioned.


Still, we can not forget the 'World Trade Centers ' like nuclear plants were built to with stand airplane's hitting them. Nor can we ignore France a country that totally depends on nuclear power, having unarmed 'Greenpeace' activists infiltrating their plants at will.( You'd think, they'd have 'security', right ? )


Worst of all, after the attack last year on a San Jose, Calif. electric 'switching' station. P.G & E which owns it. Declared it was an act of 'vandalism' and this despite the fact that over 100 A.K. 47 shell casings, that were fired at the transformers were found. As well as the fence was surgically cut to let the 'vandal's' in.


So what was Washington's response ? To date the mere 1 billion expenditure,that would be required to upgrade security on our power grid is held up in 'committee's ', while countless other billions for useless projects swirl ceaselessly down the federal drain.

Then, since the topic is 'police training' let's look locally. Recently in Sandusky a man climbed on the back of police officer Andrew Dunn and point blank executed him. Far worse, another man butchered a mother and her 2 children. What if either piece of dung required a negotiator or sniper to end their spree ?


In Norwalk , we had a big time, well connected drug dealer nailed at 'Burger King'. What if he had broke free and took hostages in the restaurant. Who would've taken him out through negotiations or better yet,a single shot ?


So to put it mildly. I agree with you scooter58 " and I too am thankful for the training and capabilities of Chief Light and his team." Because, obviously, it is better to be prepared for success. Than not to prepare, which guarantees' failure, true ?


Correct me if I am wrong : What we have in our time is far too many threats as well as promises of mayhem both internal and external to count, would you agree ?

So,unlike 'luvblues2' I do not fear our gallant police force getting the training, weapons or vehicles to handle virtually any situation. Because, let's face it ' virtually any situation' you can imagine is on the table in an increasingly dangerous future, isn't it ?

Here's hoping President Calvin Coolidge had it right when he said " 9 out 10 things you worry about fall off the road before they get to you " Because if they don't...........

hit the road jack

Cliff: I heard on the radio that over 90% of the nuclear power plants were leaking radiation on their own now without a earthquake or other disaster,so if you live near one of them your probably toast anyway.

modern concrete

Well I guess we don't have to worry about Shelly-Globe bring any more non-union people in, and we don't have to worry about IPC having Illegal aliens and housing them in their plant next to the Maple Tree Lounge and working their plant for little to no wages. Every company mention in the article doesn't even exist in this town anymore.
So to say our police officers need this kind of equipment in Norwalk Ohio ( I have been born and raised here) is like preparing for a Fukushima disaster. yea, it is nice that they got this equipment, it will look good in the local parades, like the one coming up this next weekend.
This equipment is a waste of our tax payers money!!with most of the industry that have come and gone from this city...Never did they need this kind of equipment. Hooray the city police have trained for a made up disaster...Keep up the good work Barney Fife's.

swiss family

wow..Cliff, you of all people??? I have been waiting patiently for you to actually have a real opinion... to really pick a side and stick with it, I was hoping , and still am, by the way, to see just once where you could say something of a helpful, possibly negative feedback to someone local that just might help improve the way they do things, but you and I both know that, that never happen, like what you did here, here you chose to go against an entire culture of people instead of saying anything negative, or inspiring in a way to improve the Police dept. I am glad that you see no place for any improvement, but I just can not let you "dis" an entire culture of people like that and not say something.....

First of all, by what you say , anyway,m lets assume that you might have read some books.. OK?? So did you see and pay attention to all off the time throughout history, when any culture was singled out and entrapped in any way , either by actual camps, or by stereotypes where it ended up in hind sight being the best move made???? go ahead and pick a time...the Jews, the Blacks, the gays, the Japanese??and so many more... at the time it seemed right, because someone panicked and got too excited, and started to throw out numbers like you just did, and it riled someone up, usually someone of lower intelligence, but they have guns and beer, and off they go to end the problem...like I said.. it doesn't end well

Now, let me ask you this... how many "Muslims" did you see today????? how many yesterday??? how about all last week????last month????? last year????? they must hide pretty darn good.. because I haven't seen one in years...well, except our President, of course... and if he is going to turn us all into Muslims and \all worshiping "Allah" by the end of his terms like the people, just like you , and the people that you listen to to get your statistics, said would happen when he was first elected... he better hurry... he only has 2 years left!!!!

If that was the only blog I ever read that was yours I would get the wrong opinion of you. If I read that alone I would not call you a "racist" because I do Not believe that there are any of those and never has been. Even if you interview the guys in the white sheets around the burning crosses and ask them if they are racists, they will tell you "NO"they will tell you that they are just defending what God has rightfully put into place and that is that their race is on the top wrong, so they are more doing a religious deed, than doing anything "racist"..So I would say though, that it sounds like you are doing a little racial profiling.. and from you I have to say, I am surprised