More than 20 police officers and volunteers gathered at Kingston’s Belle Park early Tuesday for an important missing persons training exercise.
The team was given a specific scenario: race against the clock to find a seven-year-old child with developmental disabilities.
Const. Cam Mack with Kingston police said the team was told the child had been last seen at bedtime the night before.
“This morning, when the parents went to check on him around 7 a.m., he was missing and they discovered the back door was ajar.”
Mack explained that what unfolds is a series of progressive steps. A full ground search, like the one police practised Tuesday, typically doesn’t start right away. Patrol officers would first go to the house and collect some basic details.
“They’d conduct an initial search of the residence, the immediate area, get initial information, and that information goes to our watch commander,” Mack said.
In Tuesday’s scenario, Belle Park is near the child’s home, so incident command and the emergency response unit deployed to the park. Volunteers secured the perimeter while officers conducted a systematic search.
“They utilize a grid search to cover as much area as quickly as possible without potentially missing a spot where the child might be,” Mack said.
To help in the hunt, Kingston police deploy a drone unit that gives them eyes in the sky as well as on the ground.
The drone can cover the search grid quickly and efficiently, Sgt. Darren Keuhl says. The drone’s camera also has a tremendous zoom range and can detect heat signatures.
“If they do actually see colour or movement or a person or thermal, then they can direct that back to the ground to the search masters, who will then put resources to that location,” Keuhl says.
Mack says that after the exercise, the team will examine the response, what went well and what can be improved.
“We potentially learn from any deficiencies or problems we have during the training scenario and we correct those,” Mack says.
Although not used in this drill, Kingston police also have a K-9 unit they can call upon, along with helicopter support from the Ontario Provincial Police.