BRUNSWICK OFFICER Dan Sylvain, in rearview mirror, maneuvers through a course of traffic cones Tuesday at Brunswick Executive Airport while instructor Mike Andreotti observes.

BRUNSWICK OFFICER Dan Sylvain, in rearview mirror, maneuvers through a course of traffic cones Tuesday at Brunswick Executive Airport while instructor Mike Andreotti observes.

BRUNSWICK

At rates of speed peaking at about 35 miles per hour, Brunswick officer Dan Sylvain quickly turned the car left, then right through a narrow lane between cones.

Accelerating, he sped to the next set of cones, slipping through the serpentine formation, then whipped through the next obstacle weaving to simulate quick lane changes, then drove into a box of cones to make a 3- point turn. All the while being timed to see how fast he could complete the course. He finished with the fastest time Tuesday in about two minutes and 35 seconds.

 

 

It’s not as easy as it looks.

Sylvain and three other officers took the annual emergency vehicle operator course the Brunswick Police Department is holding this week for its officers at Brunswick Executive Airport Tuesday afternoon.

“First, we’re going to slalom in reverse into a backing stall,” instructor Mike Andreotti, also a detective and school resource officer with Brunswick Police Department, told Sylvain.

Andreotti demonstrated the maneuvers with a Ford Crown Victoria. Other officers drove the department’s new Chevy Caprices, which Andreotti said have a shorter wheel-base, are more narrow and more responsive. The cruisers are all designed for police work with heavy-duty suspensions.

“My suggestion, is smooth and steady,” Andreotti told Sylvain, to make good time and avoid jerky movement requiring a lot of “stab braking.”

The vehicles don’t really get over 35 mph on the course, Andreotti said, and the idea is that the officers can practice the same skills needed in high-speed maneuvers with a shorter, more narrow course that requires lower speeds.

“These people are behind the wheel of a car at minimum, 10 hours a day,” Andreotti said, which statistically will lead to a crash or some kind of incident, and “we want these people to know how to react.” The officers did several rotations through the course, switching direction and allowing them to push the car to the limits and learn their own.

“It’s OK if they hit a few cones and what we’re testing for is improvement,” Andreotti said. “We start them off without a lot of knowledge and then by the time they’re done, you’re going to watch them whip through here hitting very few cones and really pushing the cars to the limit.”

Andreotti said, “It’s precision driving we’re after.” The instructors sat in the passenger seats, keeping time and note of how many cones were hit.

Brunswick Police Lt. Tom Garrepy, the lead instructor, said the course is designed differently every year, which “allows us to be creative, but we also focus on cruiser incidents from previous years.”

Officers work on backing — with mirrors, “and we encourage officers to learn the cruiser limits, as well as their own driving limits,” Garrepy said.

Brunswick officers take the course annually to refresh skills used everyday, and the department trains other departments as well. Andreotti said, “If you don’t practice, you’re not good at it.”

At conclusion of the afternoon course, Andreotti was pleased. “There are drivers who have struggled who did well today,” he said.

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