Sandy Springs Police Capt. Norman Vik in Israel.

After two weeks of training in Israel, Sandy Springs Police Capt. Norman Vik wants to use what he learned about operational readiness to improve his department.

Vik, the South District Commander as well as the North Metro SWAT Commander, was part of a 16-member delegation of senior law enforcement officials from Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Colorado. They spent two weeks in November in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange’s (GILEE) 28th annual peer-to-peer executive training program in partnership with the Israel Police.

He said they had briefings on how police in Israel handle border security, as well as how they deal with terrorist acts and smuggling.

“We don’t have to deal with border control in Georgia, whereas their law enforcement not only do traffic control, traffic enforcement, criminal investigations, but they’re also responsible for border security,” Vik said.

He had a couple of classes with Israel’s unexploded ordnance teams and saw the work those individuals do day to day. He found that one of the most interesting parts of training is that they guarantee to be the first officer on scene in 15 minutes. In talking to one of the senior instructors, Vik explained Sandy Springs usually needs to call in an outside agency because it doesn’t have a bomb disposal team.

“They’re doing this stuff by themselves, just because of the sheer volume that they have sometimes,” Vik said.

He was also inspired by the amount of training the Israeli police do, which is more annually than most police departments in the U.S. Police departments like Sandy Springs may struggle to get the time to get on shooting ranges and get to defensive tactics classes and still make sure the city’s streets are covered, he said.

“They require whole squads to go train at one time. So they’ll take a whole squad of officers in, they’ll pull them off the street for a week at a time, just to do training,” Vik said.

Israel has a national academy for police training, which ensures that all officers receive the same training specific to their positions. In metro Atlanta, training for Sandy Springs officers may be different from what Brookhaven or Atlanta officers receive.

The first thing he wants to bring to the Sandy Springs Police Department is operational readiness training like he saw in Israel. Annually every officer must participate in training that includes physical activity, defensive tactics and firearms.

He plans to reach out to the program liaison in Israel to get a course layout for their operational readiness courses to see how it can be translated for Sandy Springs.

“For me, I think what’s next is to start moving forward and proposing some of these ideas to the senior command to the majors and deputy chiefs,” Vik said.

Sandy Springs is already looking at department-wide martial arts training to help officers learn how to control individuals during an arrest without hurting anyone.

“Most of the time, the reason people are getting hurt during an arrest situation is because of lack of control. So that’s why we’re looking at doing the martial arts for the whole department, just to better protect ourselves and protect the public,” Vik said.

During his 14 days on the ground in Israel, he said almost every minute involved training and briefing on procedures in Israel. Historical and cultural lessons were interwoven with the classes. For example, a trip to a town close to the Gaza Strip was an introduction to border security.

“You don’t notice it right away until somebody actually pointed out that every structure — playgrounds, bus stops — have a bomb shelter setup,” he said.

That’s when you realize the city is only a few kilometers away from the Gaza Strip, he said. “But you couldn’t tell by driving through the city. People are out walking the streets, children are playing, and it was like day-to-day business going on in that city,” Vik said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.