The walking dead helped bring crowd-control exercises to life at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
The city of Delaware and Ohio Wesleyan University were host to the International Police Mountain Bike Association's annual conference from June 5-10. Delaware police Capt. Adam Moore said the event attracted more than 300 cyclists from police and EMS agencies in 35 states and three Canadian provinces.
As part of the conference, officers took part in multiple crowd-control scenarios June 7 at the fairgrounds with assistance from a few dozen volunteers dressed as zombies.
Wren Nealy, the association's vice president, said involving volunteers helps officers translate training into action.
"The students (have) to put everything they've learned over the last two days together with live, role players," he said. "It's a different dynamic when you have live, role players."
Skills the officers practiced at the fairgrounds ranged from channeling the crowd in certain directions to protecting buildings from vandalism.
While the volunteers were dressed as zombies, IPMBA instructors coached the crowd members to act like protesters or unruly event attendees for different exercises to better simulate real-world situations.
Many of the role players, who took part in a costume contest ahead of the exercises, have volunteered in the past to play zombies during emergency simulations for other Delaware County safety agencies.
Nealy said IPMBA officials were on board when they heard the easiest way to attract volunteers in Delaware might be reaching out to the undead.
"We (have) live, role players in this course wherever we go for each conference," he said. "It just so happened this one offered up a group of zombies."
Delaware police chief Bruce Pijanowski said he considers his agency "a leader in central Ohio for police mountain biking." He said bringing the IPMBA conference to the city helps the department's officers maintain their skills while also benefiting many nearby agencies.
"This gives you an opportunity for a week to (immerse) yourself in biking," he said. "It is a perishable skill."
Pijanowski said OWU, which allowed officers to reside and take classes on campus during the conference, was a key partner for the event.
"It really helped us reduce the cost for participants," he said.
Nealy said this is the first time his group's conference has centered on a university.
"It's a little culture change for (participants) going from hotel expectations to a college dorm, but it's a lot more affordable," he said.
"That's appealing to a lot of the agencies and a lot of the guys who have to fund their own way."