Bedford police second-annual open house draws return visitors

Dozens of local families and neighbors became better acquainted with officers from the Bedford Police Department during the department’s second annual open house, an event held on Wednesday, June 25, at the Bedford Safety Complex, 55 Constitution Drive.

Traffic directed by members of Bedford CERT – Community Emergency Response Team – filled most of a spacious lot across from the police station. More than a dozen of the CERT volunteers, clad in neon-yellow safety vests, were on hand to ensure a smooth operation should an emergency arise requiring the fast, unimpeded exit of police cars or fire trucks.

The Safety Complex, headquarters to Bedford’s police department and its fire department, was open for exploration by kids and adults. Demonstrations of police communications equipment, rides in police cars with lights flashing a brilliant blue, a K-9 demonstration courtesy of Troop D of the New Hampshire State Police, souvenirs and other diversions were among the attractions.

Bedford police officer Danielle Nightingale, organizer of the open house, deemed the event a complete success that afforded the opportunity for adults and children alike to experience the range of activities Bedford police complete on a daily basis.

“If we can provide the first positive police interaction in a child’s lifetime, then they will be more willing to ask us for help in the future,” Nightingale said. “Being there for our community is the ultimate goal we strive for in law enforcement.”

Participation from members of the fire department enabled the showcasing of the department’s fire trucks, rescue equipment and ambulances. Youngsters, teens and parents were given up-close looks at the vehicles that throughout the year provide life-saving services to the community.

Some visitors joined Virginia Martin, a communications specialist for 29 years with the Bedford Police department, in touring the police department’s digital fingerprinting station. Many then headed for servings of free pizza and beverages, enjoyed for the most part in the company of police Chief John Bryfonski, on hand to meet newcomers and welcome return visitors.

“An event like this shows people that the officers are friendly,” Martin said. “We’ve had parents call and ask if their children could come in and meet an officer. This event gives everyone the chance to meet lots of officers and get to know them.”

Outdoors, police officer Brian Masker, a certified Taser instructor, talked to the crowd about the use of the implement, an electroshock weapon that effectively incapacitates an aggressive subject. A pair of fine wires 21-feet long are tipped with barbed probes that conduct a charge of electricity. Masker demonstrated its use.

Volunteer Benjamin Kitchen, a dispatcher at the police station, took the brunt of a Taser shot fired in the demonstration by Masker. Kitchen, supported on one side by Detective Charles “Chip” Morley, and on the other by Officer Robert Lavoie, grimaced as the probes embedded in his back and pain engulfed him during the five-second jolt.

“If you’ve ever been zapped by an electric dog collar, it’s a similar feeling with the Taser,” Kitchen said. “You can’t move. If they weren’t holding me, I would have fallen right on my face.”

Another of the outdoor demonstrations, one related to the importance of wearing a seat belt, was conducted by Officer Bill Vandersyde and Officer Stephen Wallin of the Merrimack Police Department. They brought with them a machine called a seat belt enforcer, one resembling a seat in a passenger vehicle that is suspended at the top of an inclined ramp. Any volunteer, snugly restrained with a seat belt, who took a turn in the seat-belt enforcer experienced a sudden drop that replicated a slow-speed crash.

Vandersyde said the force was similar to one that might occur in a parking lot collision.

“It’s similar to a parking lot crash, between five- and 10-miles an hour,” Vandersyde said. “The machine is designed to convince the person of the importance of wearing a seat belt.”

Nearby, Michelle Clarke, a deputy sheriff for Merrimack County, distributed literature about a self-defense system designed for men, women and seniors. The Rape Aggression Defense Systems – R.A.D. self-defense course – is available each year in many locations. It sometimes is offered at no charge. Clarke said one in four women and many men will be attacked in their lifetime. Facebook is a source for more details on course presentations, as is a call to the Merrimack County Sheriff’s Office: 796-6600.

“We teach defense techniques in a way that doesn’t require a ton of time,” Clarke said. “Usually, it’s a 12-hour course, and it’s often free.

Town manager Steve Daly, along with other Town Council members, stopped by to take part in the festivities and meet townspeople heretofore unknown to him. Daly assumed his post earlier this year.

“This is an outstanding event,” Daly said. “It is a reaching out to the community and that helps the community get to know their police. That’s really important.”

For more information on the Bedford Police department’s second annual open house, contact Officer Danielle Nightingale: