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April 24, 2013

Local responders faced equipment problems

Officers who are part of the Cape Ann Regional Response Team formally train at least twice a month, and gather equipment throughout the year to ready themselves for worst case scenarios.

But, even with all that effort funneled into preparations, the group found a lot of areas for improvement when tested — as they were last Friday, when the team was deployed to the day’s chaos in Watertown that led to the capture of 19-year-old Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev.

”Any after action report includes areas of improvement and you always learn, no team is perfect, you go into these situations and you learn what you can improve,” Rockport Police Lt. Mark Schmink, the tactical team’s leader, said Tuesday.

Though the regional police group found its equipment sufficient as they walked door to door, checking on residents and keeping an eye out for improvised explosive devices and the suspect at large in Watertown Friday, police said the event highlighted some needed upgrades.

To and from Watertown, the Cape Ann group drove a handful of vehicles. The fleet included a CATA bus, painted black and white with tinted windows, that may have sputtered its last miles before pulling back up to the Rockport Police Station Friday night.

”We have to use what we have,” Schmink said of the van donated by Gloucester. “I think it died in the parking lot of the police station when we got home. We had to jump start it just to bring it around back.”

The vehicle had finished the trip, but not without one rusty door flailing open as police drove it during the terrorism response.

Schmink’s report also noted that modernized body armor would lessen the burden of wearing the heavy and hot current equipment. He suggested raising funds for high-tech global positioning devices — not the kind you find on any of today’s smartphones, but the kind that can zero in on longitudinal and latitudinal locations.

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