Darien Foundation awards police department technology grant

DARIEN — The Darien Foundation has awarded a crucial two-part technology grant to the Darien Police Department, ensuring safety, and security in the town.

A new FARO 3D laser scanner now enables police to map accident scenes, and seven schools and public buildings. Laser Shot firearms training from realistic laser-based engagements and live fire exercises now also help train officers in firing precision and decision making.

“This grant was fortuitous and conceived of during a popular ‘Coffee with a Cop’ gathering with Lt. Alison Hudyma,” said The Darien Foundation’s executive director Sarah Woodberry.

The Coffee with a Cop events were held pre-COVID regularly. During one of the events, Hudyma shared some ideas for bringing new technology that would expand and improve upon the Darien Police Department’s existing capabilities, Woodberry said.

That dialogue led to meetings with the police department and The Darien Foundation Board of Directors Technology Chairman Sean Calvillo, who was instrumental in consulting and advising on the grants, said. He assessed the department’s technology and attended demonstrations to help assess and implement the new systems. The DPD was then invited to The Darien Foundation Board Meeting to make a grant request, which was unanimously approved.

The first grant, totaling $55,000 from The Darien Foundation, enabled the police to purchase a FARO 3D laser scanner. This portable device creates a robust, to scale scan of an accident or crime scene within an hour or less. (Larger scenes like schools or buildings take several hours).

The FARO scanner will be used to “map” all seven public schools, as well as public facilities. It will also aid the police in the event of a critical incident, such as an active shooter or a natural disaster, enabling them to respond with accuracy and precision.

Hudyma, the first female lieutenant and a 20-year veteran of the Darien Police Department, is in charge of the five-person Accident Investigation Team, and was integral to the grant process.

“In case of any active shooter incident — with this new technology, we will be prepared. Our team is using the FARO to create a very precise plan of each school and building so that we will know exactly how the exits, corridors, and rooms are laid out,” Hudyma said.

Darien Police Chief Donald Anderson said the technology will “dramatically change how prepared we can be for a critical incident.”

“We will know the exact plan of each public building and school so that we can pinpoint and address any emergency situation that may arise — be it an active shooter, a weather-related or other natural disaster, and/or any another unforeseen threat or danger,” Anderson said.

To do this, the FARO will be used to create a scalable three-dimensional model of each Darien public school. Accident team officers will scan the building and download the information in order to create these 3D images to share with the department and town officials.

These models will show each building’s precise measurements between entrances and exits, doors, stairwells, and staircases in order to form a plan of action in the event of an emergency. The AIT (Accident Investigation Team) is currently mapping Town Hall. The Darien Police Department will use the 3D scans to practice their various responses to an emergency, i.e. by reviewing the location of a threat, securing the perimeter, and setting up a command center.

Beyond being prepared for a critical incident, FARO will also help the police with traffic accident scenes. Hudyma and Sgt. Derek Mulcahy said the new technology will cut down on a lot of the time it takes to process an accident scene.

“The FARO actually spins around and takes measurements that would normally take us hours to calculate and measure with a normal camera,” Mulcahy said.

FARO also will cut down on the time roads need to be closed as well as the associated traffic.

“This is a great benefit to Darien residents because for example, if there was a road closure lasting four hours, it would now be half the time or less,” Hudyma said.

The second grant, totaling $56,000, enabled the department to purchase a live fire judgement training, and decision-making Laser Shot system. Laser Shot provides high-quality, scenario-based interactive training for officers.

Using Laser Shot, the training team can present officers with realistic, high-stress scenarios at the indoor firing range, or in other flexible spaces. The scenarios are played out on a large screen via life-size projections so that officers can rehearse how they would react when presented with various situations.

The technology offers 800+ different scenarios, all with different endings, depending upon the actions chosen by the officers in training.

“The goal is always to de-escalate encounters and minimize the use of force by “practicing” how officers will react in stressful situations. While violent encounters are lower frequency occurrences, the DPD places a high degree of importance upon training for these circumstances,” Captain Shreders said.

“Our prior system was outdated and did not offer such a wide variety of scenarios, nor the amount of possible different outcomes as the new Laser Shot system. Now, all 51 officers will be trained with the new system,” Captain Robert Shreders also said.

“The Darien Police Department has always recognized the importance of preparation for critical incidents. We take pride in being one of the most highly trained, educated, and professional police departments, not only in Connecticut, but in the entire country,” said Captain Jeremiah Marron Jr.

Marron added that the department was “sincerely appreciative to be able to benefit from partnering with The Darien Foundation.”

“Once again, the generosity of this organization and its donors has seen to it that our officers will receive the best training available, pertaining to certain types of critical incidents. Another clear example of community support -- and for that we are very thankful,” Marron said.

“The Darien Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the Darien Police Department. We are incredibly thankful for this generous grant of $111,000 which will provide our officers with state-of-the-art technology, and training to best serve our community,” Darien Police Commissioner Brent Hayes said.