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The Morris County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Morris County Park Police on a search and rescue training mission Wednesday, June 26, that centered on finding a fictitious 23-year-old man who went missing in the woods of Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Jefferson Township.
The joint training exercise, organized by Sheriff’s Office Detective Lieutenant Mark Chiarolanza and Park Police Lieutenant Chris List, brought together seasoned and less experienced officers from both agencies to strategize on the most efficient ways of finding the lost subject.
The venue was a section of the 3,200-acre Mahlon Dickerson Reservation off Weldon Road that formerly was a ski area known as Snow Bowl but now is used for remote-controlled car racing, hiking and picnicking.
Superior officers from both departments brought skills to the training that they imparted to newer officers, who were challenged to study topography maps, familiarize themselves with equipment and all-terrain vehicles, and decide logical next steps in the search and any additional assets they needed.
A clothed mannequin serving as the lost hiker ultimately was found by Officers – including Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Detectives Mike Carbone and Marc Adamsky – who rode ATVs over washed-out trails to a fire tower situated in the Bowling Green Mountain portion of the reservation.
The series of events that led to the lost hiker’s rescue and transport back to his vehicle in a Stokes Basket was a collaboration of the partners who created scenarios about the missing hiker that led to solid plans on how best to find him.
“With more than 18,000 acres of parkland in Morris County, the training was an intelligent and dynamic exercise in how agencies can share information and skills to carry out a successful search and rescue if called upon,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.
The simulated search and rescue began with Park Police Officers Christian DiGiralomo and Anthony Brunone checking the ownership of a Dodge Durango parked overnight by an entrance to the reservation. The officers held a mock conversation with the vehicle owner, who stated his son, who drove the Durango, hadn’t been seen or heard from since the previous day.
As the simulation evolved, Officers had a phone company try to track the hiker’s cellular phone but calls went straight to voice mail and its location couldn’t be determined.
Officers then requested a Sheriff’s Office K-9 team, who could not track the hiker from his SUV into the woods. After learning through simulated calls that the hiker was depressed in the past week, the search and rescue mission became urgent.
The Sheriff’s Office Mobile Command Unit, driven by Sheriff’s Office Corporal Jamie Rae, was brought to the scene. Sheriff’s Office Sergeant John Rospond and Park Police Sergeant Robert Kranz checked SARTopo, computerized back-country maps, to get insight into the immediate area and mark off areas that had been searched by the ATV riders with negative results.
During one trip the ATV riders took on trails to the area of the fire tower, Sergeant Kranz in the command unit received their two-way radio call that the hiker was found, conscious and unhurt.
The group afterwards reviewed their entire response to the exercise, with Sheriff’s Office Detective Lieutenant Kelley Zienowicz explaining protocol to follow had the hiker been found deceased, and the importance of proper collection and identification of evidence found at and around the scene.
The Morristown Bureau of Police became the seventh law enforcement agency in Morris County on Tuesday, June 25th, to participate in Hope One-PAARI (Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative) that was launched in April by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office.
“It is essential that all citizens of the Town of Morristown be aware of the importance of drug addiction and crime prevention programs and the impact that addiction recovery and advocacy will have on their quality of life as well as reducing crime, drugs, and violence in the Town of Morristown,” reads a portion of a Town Council proclamation that supports the Morristown Bureau of Police participation in PAARI.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, who oversees PAARI and the Hope One mobile substance use outreach vehicle for the office, presented Morristown Mayor Timothy P. Dougherty with a PAARI placard at the meeting, on behalf of Sheriff James M. Gannon.
“It is tremendous that Morristown Police, who keep the peace in our county seat, have partnered with the Sheriff’s Office and other participating law enforcement agencies in assisting, with empathy, people in our community who are battling the ferocious disease of opioid addiction,” Sheriff Gannon said.
The PAARI program is designed to give individuals with substance use disorders a safe and stigma-free way to seek help for their addiction at a local police department. Individuals who voluntarily walk into participating police departments and request help for their substance use disorder are screened by a trained police officer and assisted by a Daytop New Jersey certified Peer Recovery Specialist in obtaining treatment and recovery services.
Morristown Police Sergeant Chris Oakley is the Bureau’s designated lead PAARI officer and additional police officers are in the process of being trained.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office was the first Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey to join PAARI, which is offered by more than 400 police departments in 32 states. Individuals are welcome to walk into the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown, where the Sheriff’s Office is situated, and request assistance with their substance use addiction.
The Butler, Morris Plains, Mount Olive, Rockaway Borough and Washington Township Police Departments also are participating in PAARI.