As quickly as they can get thereSWAT teams prepare for emergency response in schools
The two tactical units converged on the area that one male subject had been reported firing a gun in the classrooms of the new high school. The point officer cleared the stairs as the unit, dressed in camouflage with heavy flak jackets and M-4 rifles in hand, moved to the second floor.
Moving from room to room with each officer covering his partner’s back, the group searched for the shooter. As they rounded a corner, a group of panicking students ran out and told the officers where the gunman was. As the officers proceeded down the hallway, they took fire from one of the rooms. The group of 10 charged into the room, shots firing. In the end the gunman had sustained two bullet hits, including one in the upper chest.
About 30 members of the Washington Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and members of the Keota Police Department played out the scenario this morning. Playing the role of students and bad guys were former Washington High School students now studying criminal justice, as well as county dispatchers.
“The police team and the sheriff’s department team train together quite often,” Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman said. “Typically if one team responds to a situation, the other responds.”
Goodman said this is the first time the groups had gotten to train in the new high school. He said the size and openness of the building allowed the team members to work on a wide variety of skills and drills.
It was after the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., that the city and county began to consider developing a special response team. Goodman said that increased issues with drug enforcement and the threat of terror incidents such as active shooters led to the creation of the teams in 2000. He said the teams have been used several times since their creations with good results.
Goodman said the training today is part of the normal monthly SWAT training each officer receives. He said the groups work on room and hall clearing, hostage rescue and active shooter scenarios. He also said that training in the school also helps officers to familiarize themselves with the layout of the building in case of an incident in the school.
While the mood and camaraderie of the officers was good, the officers all knew the seriousness of what they were training for. They knew when SWAT is called, many times lives are at stake.
The school district works closely with officers during the training, Goodman said.
“This is something the school and the police have always taken seriously,” Goodman said.
He also said smaller unit drills are done for officers initially responding to a situation. Goodman said all officers in the Washington Police Department are SWAT trained.
“As quickly as we can get to the scene, we can be inside,” Goodman said.