Refreshing the basic movesWashington SWAT team trains at area schools for emergency
As Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman and Sgt. Shawn Ellingson spoke about the SWAT team today, the city of Miami, Fla., reeled after two people were killed and 10 wounded in an apartment complex shooting earlier this morning.
Goodman said the increasing number of incidents involving active shooters nationwide punctuates the need to have a tactical team ready to respond if needed. During a recent Washington City Council meeting, Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar made the comment regarding active shooters, “It is not if, but when.” On Monday, the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team — made up of Washington Police officers and Washington County Sheriff’s deputies — drilled in the halls of Washington High School. Ellingson, who coaches the team, said that Monday was a day for the team to work on fine-tuning the basic tactics.
“We worked on doing it the best way possible to protect themselves and other people,” Ellingson said. “We started doing rooms and ended up working hallways. We always try to utilize the schools during the summer when they are empty.”
He stressed the need for officers to train in the heavy and bulky SWAT equipment that includes bullet-resistant vests, helmets and an array of gear. Ellingson said the ability to move through the hallways in the heavy equipment is needed.
Ellingson stressed that the police have a good working relationship with the schools and hope to identify potential threats before they reach the level a SWAT team is needed. He also said that the department tries to demonstrate that Washington schools are not the “soft targets” potential shooters look for.
Goodman said that just last week the police had intervened in a situation that could have been “disastrous.”
“There are things that come up all the time,” he said. “You never know what is going to trigger what. You just have to keep training up and be ready, because it is happening.”
He said that most of the situations that would require the SWAT team to be used would include active shooters and high-risk drug warrants. Goodman said the team was used because of the large amounts of drugs, cash and weapons that are regularly found on the scenes. Goodman and Ellingson both discussed drugs that are being found now, including such things as meth, bath salts, and K2, which have a record of making subjects violent.
“We have videotape of those people from our cameras that have happened right here in Washington, Iowa,” Goodman said. “They get to that state and they are capable of anything. Most people don’t realize that. Most people don’t realize what officers are dealing with on a daily basis.”
Goodman said part of the tactical training includes providing medical treatment to an injured party. He said if someone is injured, the team could render first aid prior to the situation being secured to the point paramedics could be brought in. He said one of the members of the SWAT team is an emergency room doctor with prior military experience.
Goodman said that nationwide the police are becoming more tactically minded due to the statistics showing an increase in violence. He said weapon situations, drug situations and people barricading themselves inside a building have taken an upswing. He said the emphasis on training increased in 1999 after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo. He said that now all officers nationwide are trained to go into an active shooting situation in a school as soon as they arrive on scene.
“You have to give the officers the tools,” he said. “It is not only to survive but to be more confident. When you train these guys to a level that they are trained to, they have more confidence in their abilities in what they can do when they go into a situation. That allows them to deal with things in a more comfortable manner.”
Another system the Washington Police Department is looking into is the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) training system. This is a proactive system that shows faculty and teachers how to fight back against an active shooter. Goodman said some of the things taught are already being implemented. Ellingson said that the department is in the “infancy” stages of discussing the program with the schools. He said that he doesn’t know if the program will be implemented or not.