Owens hosts statewide SWAT trainingWritten by Erik Gable | | firstname.lastname@example.org
With that warning, SWAT team members filed into the office of a doctor suspected of running an illegal pill mill, weapons at the ready.
The raid was a simulation and the office part of a mock city on the Owens Community College campus, but the officers approached it as they would a real operation, spreading out, checking each room and calling reports to comrades.
“Door right, door right.”
“We got a counter here we can’t see underneath.”
“Clear in here! One suspect in custody.”
The weeklong training session, which started June 11, was the first such program to result from a new partnership between Owens and the Ohio Tactical Officers Association (OTOA).
“They have the expertise, we have the facilities, and together we can put on a stellar course,” said Michael Cornell, director of the Owens Community College Center for Emergency Preparedness.
Cornell said although other organizations provide tactical training for law enforcement, this is the only one sanctioned by the OTOA.
The 240-acre facility includes a mock city with buildings representing a bank, gas station and hospital emergency department. There’s also a collapsed building, a train yard, a high-rise, a 32-foot-deep pond for diving rescue operations, an area for agricultural accident simulations and a Boeing 727 for airport exercises.
“We have, really, the ability to train anybody that needs to be trained,” said Cornell, a former Army Ranger who has also worked for the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
The center also has indoor and outdoor training towers that can simulate fires, situations with a gunman in a building and other emergencies. In addition to using projection screens, instructors can turn on sprinklers or pipe in distracting noises to make the scenario as realistic as possible.
“It gives us the ability to have a mega-lab, so to speak, for our students,” Cornell said.
And with so much space, several agencies can train simultaneously.
Joe Ball of the Perrysburg Township Police Department and Scott Sims of the Lake Township Police Department, who jointly command a new SWAT unit serving northern Wood County, served as assistant instructors for the week’s training. Ball said serving high-risk warrants — the scenario for many of the training exercises the group went through — makes up much of SWAT teams’ work.
“We’re not just walking into somebody’s house — this is high-risk stuff here,” Ball said. “When we enter, things are very, very volatile and dangerous.”
Sims said it can be hard for SWAT teams to find places to train. They often have to negotiate access to abandoned buildings and worry about bothering neighbors.
“It’s great for Northwest Ohio to have a training facility where we can do everything in one spot,” he said.
Patrick Fiorilli, president of the OTOA and the commander of a Cleveland-area SWAT unit, agreed.
“I have not seen a facility like this anywhere in Ohio,” Fiorilli said. “It’s very unique. It’s almost like a one-stop shop for us for tactical training.”
Fiorilli said Owens and the OTOA would also like to use their partnership to give patrol officers more access to tactical training, possibly helping them head off dangerous situations before they escalate.
Owens and OTOA plan to offer training twice a year at first, with advanced SWAT training and sniper school offered as well. Owens will also be the site of OTOA’s five-day annual training conference in May 2013, which is expected to draw more than 900 law enforcement officers from across Ohio.