Friday, July 7, 2006

SV police practice rapid deployment

Training exercise prepares police for Columbine-type event

Express Staff Writer

Area police agencies gathered last week at The Community School campus in Sun Valley to practice new rapid deployment techniques developed by the Sun Valley Police Department.

Billed as Immediate Action Rapid Deployment Training, officers from the Ketchum Police Department and the Blaine County Sheriff's Office participated with Sun Valley officers in exercises June 28 and 29. Also participating were Wood River Fire and Rescue and St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett said the purpose of the training was to exercise rapid response techniques for terrorist situations or school shootings such as occurred in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

"The Columbine incident changed the police response to those type of things, and this is our response to that," Daggett said.

At Columbine, students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide. The incident was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history and sent shock waves through the American school system. Police response to the situation has been criticized as being too slow.

Daggett said the basic policy of his department will be to surround and contain a threatening situation where no shooting has occurred.

"But we go in shooting if the shooters are already shooting," he said.

Officers used air handguns and rifles that fired soft BB pellets to simulate gun battles. Mock homemade bombs were also used in the exercises.

Daggett said another purpose of the training was to exercise multi-agency responses to help develop coordination between various law enforcement agencies and emergency responders.

"We very seldom have such a multi-agency training effort. That's the big kudo here," he said.

Daggett said the training was geared to patrol officers and supervisors who are likely to be first on the scene at a terrorist or shooter situation. Six Sun Valley officers, four Ketchum officers and six Blaine County deputies participated. Six civilian volunteers were recruited to play "bad guys" and victims, Daggett said.

Scenarios were developed and carried out at the school building to simulate actual hostage and shooter situations.

"Everyone agreed it was a very worthwhile exercise," Daggett said. "Most commented on the teamwork learned from being grouped with officers from different agencies when working the scenarios."

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