|Dusty Butler, Mike Jorgensen, Casey Alton, Garrett Conover, Ted Thomas and Bob Blackburn all participated in the SWAT training.|
The Utah County Metro SWAT team came to Emery County on Friday to work with local law enforcement. Last spring a few Emery County officers went to training in Utah Valley and Captain Kyle Ekker wanted more of the officers here to experience some of this training first hand.
Sergeant Wally Perschon and his crew met the officers at Emery High School. Sergeant Perschon said, "We have 41 men in our unit. We helped out during the Olympics with crowd control. We don't have a lot of protests and demonstrations in our area, we mainly help execute search warrants and we go in on meth labs. If the local law enforcement needs reinforcement then we're here to help. If they are going in on a dealer who has a violent history we will secure the scene for them and then they take over for the investigative work. We help with gang situations. We also help in situations where someone has barricaded themselves inside a home or business and we help with negotiations. Most of these go well and 90 percent of the time no one gets hurt.
"We go out on a lot of unscheduled domestic violence cases as well. We are called out to help local law enforcement when they are dealing with suicidal suspects also."
Captain Ekker said his officers needed some training in rapid deployment and initial reaction in an active shooter situation. "We need people who can contain a situation," he said.
Sergeant Perschon said, "We conduct SWAT training for a week up in Utah Valley each year. Our unit trains once a month. This is the first time we have conducted training onsite with a group of officers. We have to be prepared for copycat crimes and learn from the past. We have to look at the 'what if' scenario. No one thought people would be crazy enough to get to this level. The rural guys don't have a formal SWAT team so they just have to work this training in. We recommend that school kids are involved in an actual simulation. It's really hard to find the bad guy when everyone is screaming and hollering.
"We hope our presence acts as a deterrent, we think that training is needed for the school children so they don't panic. We work to reduce fear and create an awareness of what's going on around you. We hope we are never needed in a shooting situation, but we are prepared," said Sergeant Perschon.
On this day the men worked as a team. They were taught to evaluate a situation. They began at the front doors of the high school and conducted a thorough search of the building. They were taught to move slowly and to be thinking as they moved around the building. When they approached a window they were reminded how to safely cross in front of a window. One critical point they were reminded of was being able to adapt to the situation at hand. Communication among the team members is vital. You have to know the others on your team and what to expect from them. The officers were taught to use the cover of the building and how to move around corners.
Containment is the goal in a shooting situation. When the officers came to a door, and it was locked and they couldn't enter it, they would put some tape across the door and a door stop to prevent anyone from leaving that room. It was noted that it wasn't a secure room. When a room was completely searched it was marked as such.
One of the officers from Utah County related an incident they were involved with in a condominium complex. They had searched the entire complex overlooking one tiny closet which held the suspect. They emphasized to the local officers to take their time. They were trained to stay off the walls of a building because bullets can travel along the walls and ricochet. They were told if it is necessary to take out a shooter to not be distracted as there could be more and to just keep on going. They were instructed to keep moving as they entered the rooms to be searched. The second man through the door is considered the most at risk, but this risk is minimized if you keep moving; because a moving target is harder to hit. The formula for searching each room was the same with officers covering each other as they entered the room. They were taught to be aware of any hiding places low and high as they move through a building.
They were also taught a signal to use so the officers in the hall know that it is their man coming out of a room that has been searched. After a room has been taped up and the tape was broken or disturbed they knew they had to check that particular room again. The team sticks together and moves as a whole through the building.
Sergeant Perschon also flies an Apache and is a captain in the Utah National Guard. He also worked as a Navy Seal and when he's not on the job he rides a V-Star 1100 Yamaha for fun. He said, "There is a lot of job satisfaction working in law enforcement.. I like removing the offenders from the street."
Captain Ekker said, "We wanted to bring this team down here to help us prepare in case a situation ever arises; then our men are trained and ready to save lives."