Law enforcement officers from Canada and Vermont gathered this week with border patrol officials from both sides of the international boundary. The aim was to foster closer collaboration.
The two-day training conference at Jay Peak Resort included a fictional scenario asking responders to brainstorm handling a chilling chain of events. A man robs a store in Newport, fires at police and leads them on a chase northward. Vermont police have to stop at the border, so he flees into Canada, careens off a bridge, and collides with a busload of important people on a trade mission. And imagine those passengers including Gov. Peter Shumlin and Sen. Patrick Leahy.
The designer of the international team-building exercise, Brittany Marquette, said it’s an exaggeration based on real life.
“Yes, we did have a chase with a person who had robbed a store in Derby and went through the customs in Derby Line and police were unable to apprehend them—they had to stop at the border,” Marquette recalled.
Under both Canadian and American law, police must show their weapons at the border even if they are in hot pursuit of an armed offender. But Brian Byrne, staff sergeant with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, says law enforcers near the boundary are cooperating more closely than they used to. In fact, they are beginning joint patrols on waterways dividing the two countries.
“Yes, we can conduct operations on Lake Memphremagog. It’s part of our planning for the upcoming summer,” said Byrne.
That huge lake between Newport, Vermont and Magog, Quebec is a possible route for illegal immigration. But Byrne says better, more high-tech communication between Canadian and American emergency responders is also helping innocent people in distress. Lt. Mike Manning, of the Vermont State Police, agrees. But he says nothing can replace face-to-face training conferences like this one.
“The having coffee and meeting each other for the first time is very important because the time to exchange business cards isn’t in the middle of an event,” Manning said.
As for Gov. Shumlin and Sen. Leahy in that imaginary crisis, they turn out okay.