In what could only be described as tragically poor timing, the Wildwood Police Department in coordination with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) decided to begin three days of active shooter training drills at the Wildwood Convention Center, the very place where thousands of residents were expected to vote in this year’s midterm elections.
By The Standard | Tuesday, November 6, 2018
ildwood is an incredibly diverse community and includes the largest minority and immigrant communities in the County, so it’s understandable that a large, militarized police force might be intimidating to residents trying to legally vote. One would think that the entire point of an active shooter drill would be to make it seems as realistic as possible, so you really couldn’t plan a less comfortable environment for voters.
Robert Regalbuto, Wildwood Chief of Police said, “The training is in a class room today. Further the Convention Center is a very large building, providing sufficient room for voters in one area of the building, while allowing officers the ability to receive valuable training in another. This training was organized months ago in cooperation with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Ga. and we had to work with their availability. While I appreciate the concern, there is nothing occurring in the building that is interfering with the election process.”
Residents interviewed mentioned that there was a large police presence in the form of police vehicles outside the Convention Center, which it and of itself, was a cause for alarm. Despite the argument that Tuesday’s training sessions were in a classroom, the police department issued a Nixle Alert saying,
“In an effort to better train law enforcement officers from around our area in their response to active threat scenarios, the Wildwood Police Department is hosting active shooter training at the Wildwoods Convention Center this week.
This course, which is being conducted by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), includes the use of roll players as well as simulation firearms. Although training will take place inside the Convention Center, residents and visitors should be aware that this training is scheduled should they observe police activity in the area.
The active shooter training will be conducted Tuesday (11/6/18) through Thursday (11/8/18) from 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM.
Please note that should you observe something that you deem to be suspicious in the area of the Convention Center during these times, do not hesitate to contact the Wildwood Police Department at (609) 522-0222 and we will ensure that this activity is part of our training.”
The argument on its face posits that they warned everyone in advance, so there shouldn’t have been any cause for alarm. But the reality is telling certain communities that there will be a large police presence in an area, is not necessarily a comfortable situation. Chief Regalbuto’s assertion that this had been organized for months also feels disingenuous given that they’ve known that Election Day is the first Tuesday in November and that it’s been this way since 1845. They chose Election Day as the first day of their drills.
Elsewhere in the country, ABC News was reporting that US Border patrol officials on Tuesday abruptly canceled a “crowd control exercise” it had planned for Election Day near a Hispanic neighborhood along the Texas-Mexico border a half a mile from a polling place. The event, which had been scheduled for noon Eastern time, drew sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and others that said the timing seemed to be aimed at trying to intimidate Hispanic voters.
“The timing of this is suspicious,” the ACLU in Texas tweeted. “The Trump administration, and by extension the (Texas Gov. Greg) Abbott administration, have done quite enough to intimidate voters without staging military rehearsals on Election Day.”
While the active shooter drills in Wildwood are arguably vital training exercises, it seems curious that they couldn’t have been scheduled even a day later. It is beyond comprehension that a more suitable timeframe couldn’t have been worked out and begs the question of whether or not it was simply a case of being utterly tone deaf and careless towards the local community or a more surreptitious effort to disrupt the voting process? Neither option seems reasonable or responsible.
Emails to the Mayor of Wildwood, Ernie Troiano were not returned before this story was published.