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Could cuts to counterdrug training hurt Vt. police? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Could cuts to counterdrug training hurt Vt. police?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

A surge in heroin crime has caused Gov. Peter Shumlin to crack down-- the goal is keeping out-of-state drug dealers from coming in.

"Vermont faces an explosion in heroin crime," Wadi Sawabini said. "There has never been a time where we've needed better trained cops than right now."

Sawabini is a video surveillance expert and has trained hundreds of police officers on how to catch drug dealers at the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center, or NCTC. State and federal investigators get free training there. It's offered more than 60 specialized drug courses to officers in the Northeast for the past 15 years. But now it's closing.

"This is one if those federal programs that really works," Sawabini said. "This is one of those federal programs that's effective. It's one of those federal programs that delivers immediate results."

Approximately 1,400 officers from various Vermont law enforcement agencies have been NCTC trained since it opened. In the last fiscal year, 172 Vermont officers from 34 different agencies. The main facility is located in Pennsylvania, but NCTC offers satellite courses all throughout the Northeast.

The NCTC tells us they are officially closing due to lack of funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, but they will not release any additional details at this time.

Officers who have trained at NCTC, however, say this closing simply should not happen.

"I think they need to fund it," Shelburne Police Ofc. Josh Flore said. "Just the amount of training that NCTC offers is stuff that we don't necessarily always see in Vermont through the Vermont Police Academy-- we might see that training once a year, twice a year. Whereas NCTC has the ability to put these on across the region and across the country."

Flore attended a social media course through NCTC focusing on how to use sites like Facebook and Twitter to track drug activity. He says what he learned there was invaluable.

"If you don't have the skillset, something that might take someone with the training a couple hours to go through and do the social media mining to find this information-- someone without that skillset or without the knowledge that we've gained from the training, it could take them days," Flore said.

Sawabini says there is going to be an unmet need.

The Vermont State Police do not rely on the NCTC for its specialized drug training. But smaller departments like Shelburne worry that they will not be able to afford the caliber of training offered at the center. It is slated to close in October.

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