PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (July 21, 2021) – At times, Presidio of Monterey law enforcement and security personnel who participated in vehicle interdiction training here July 12-14 couldn’t help but smile.
The training focused on vehicle searches, and when participants found an item after scouring a vehicle for carefully hidden contraband, their faces lit up.
One of them was Officer Nery Cruz, a PoM security guard who did a deep dive under a steering wheel to uncover a plastic training gun. Not only will the training help him search vehicles more thoroughly and increase safety at PoM, but it also taught him how use the correct tools and not damage vehicles during searches, he said.
“I found some stuff where we would never, ever think that we would find stuff,” Cruz said.
Janice Quenga, PoM antiterrorism officer, said more than 30 law enforcement, security and antiterrorism personnel from PoM and other local agencies, including Fort Hunter Liggett, California State University-Monterey and Naval Support Activity Monterey, participated in the training at the General Stilwell Center.
The training involved a combination of classroom and hands-on training, and on the second day the class split up into groups to search vehicles. Doors, trunks and hoods open, participants combed through the vehicles looking for simulated for guns and drugs. Not content with the insides of the vehicles, they also climbed underneath to see if they could find anything beneath the vehicles.
The training provided personnel with new tactics and techniques, Quenga said, and also helped them improve their skills at finding items such as drugs, guns and explosive devices.
Local municipal organizations participated as well, and Brian George, a K-9 handler from the Santa Cruz Police Department, brought along his K-9 Parker, a narcotics detection dog, so they could improve their search skills.
“I don’t get a chance to search a variety of newer cars with experts at hiding stuff, so it just gave [Parker] some hard problems today,” George said. “It went well. Four out of four.”
Quenga said installation officials hold antiterrorism training annually in commemoration of National Antiterrorism Awareness Month, which is in August. Last year, however, it was not possible to hold training because of Covid-19.
The 4:20 Group, LLC, a company based in Elberfeld, Ind., taught the training through the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center based in Annville, Penn., said James Eagleson, chief operations officer for the company.
Since the NCTC receives money from Congress to provide counterdrug training throughout the country, the class comes at no cost to the students and they’re able to take what they learn back to their agencies, Eagleson said.
“They get hands on training searching cars, trucks, SUVs,” Eagleson said. “Today they were exposed to 150 different concealment methods—backs, floors, all kinds of different compartments, and they have to find all of them today. If they don’t find all of them, we show them.”
The training includes a variety of vehicles from different vehicle manufacturers so personnel can gain a sense of what is standard and what might indicate tampering, Eagleson said.
“These are brand new cars, 2021, so for the next 10 years of their careers, they’re going to see these cars,” Eagleson said. “Every year we bring brand new cars, and we show them what’s factory, what’s not, what’s been added, what’s been taken away.”
The class spans vehicle searches all the way from before traffic stops to court, Eagleson said.