Mock riot training draws crowd

MOUNDSVILLE – Roughly 1,000 law enforcement officials from as far away as California, Florida, Germany and several Caribbean nations are improving their skills during the 18th-annual Mock Prison Riot at the former West Virginia Penitentiary.

“If we had to drive for 40 hours, we would be here. This is phenomenal team training,” said Capt. Scott Brock of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department in Lee County, Fla. “This tests your upper body and lower body, and helps you develop physical endurance.”

Lee County Deputy Brandon Pannone completed an obstacle course Monday. After catching his breath, he described the course as tough.

“Each obstacle gets harder and harder as you go along. The hardest part for me is the horizontal rope,” he said. “This is valuable experience.”

The West Virginia Division of Corrections partners with the West Virginia Corrections Training Foundation, a non-profit group, to oversee the event that has taken place at the prison every spring since 1997. The prison itself closed in 1995.

“We are very excited about this year’s event. For the first time ever, we are offering a lecture series during the event, and we are really looking forward to meeting all the first-time attendees with the Caribbean delegation,” said Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein. “There is information out there on a variety of topics that could really benefit our attendees without them having to spend an entire day in the field or in the classroom. Our new series offers 90-minute lectures on topics such as cellphones in prisons, how to manage hostage situations and set up a protocol, and how to manage stress on the job.”

Rubenstein said the division worked with the U.S. Department of State to accommodate a group of practitioners from the Caribbean. He said watching these officers go to work should be a learning experience for everyone.

“It is always fascinating to watch and learn how different agencies from around the U.S. and the world approach situations,” Rubenstein said.

While the obstacle course events took place Monday, the exhibition hall, workshops and training scenarios will take place today and Wednesday. DroneShield LLC, a Virginia-based company that specializes in drone detections systems, will deploy drones and its drone detection technology during the training scenarios. Special operations teams will practice scenarios, in which drones will be flown over the prison walls to drop off contraband to “prisoners.”

“Our attendees come here prepared to work,” Rubenstein added. “They are engaged and learning and networking, and we are very privileged to be able to offer these opportunities for their benefit.”

Terry Rusin, a member of the training foundation’s board of directors, said organizers try to improve the even each year.

“The unique circumstances of our venue – and the relationships we have and continue to build throughout the world – allow us to offer innovative hands-on training that is extremely difficult to find elsewhere,” Rusin said. “It is our privilege to continue offering these training and technology opportunities for our attendees.”