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Oswego Police hold SWAT training at OHS : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Oswego Police hold SWAT training at OHS
Drill intended to boost first response to emergency situations

by Tony Scott


The new Oswego High School addition hasn't yet seen the buzz of students hustling through its hallways, but it was the site of a flurry of activity last Thursday as the Oswego Police Department used the building to conduct SWAT tactics training.

During the training exercise, which all officers participated in, teams took turns entering classrooms, sometimes to disarm an "assailant," or sometimes to rescue "hostages." Among the exercises was also a situation involving a woman with a gun standing outside the school, shooting at officers.

Of course, the victims and the perpetrators were volunteers - either high school students or members of the department's Citizens Police Academy - and the situations were not real, but Chief Dwight Baird said the officers need to be prepared to use SWAT tactics since in most cases they will arrive on a scene before the Kendall County Special Response Team (SRT).

The SRT organization is made of officers from Oswego, Montgomery, Yorkville, Plainfield, and Minooka that is a cooperative SWAT team of shared resources.

Baird said the mass shooting incident at Columbine High School in 1999 changed the way departments use and train for SWAT tactics. At the time, standard procedure for police officers was to wait for a SWAT team to arrive before entering a mass shooting situation - a policy that may have put more lives in danger.

Now, Baird said, police officers who are not on a SWAT team like the SRT squad are trained in SWAT tactics just in case they need to enter a building in such a situation. This way, they don't need to wait for the SRT officers to arrive and may be able to alleviate a situation.

"That's evolved based on incidents that occurred - Columbine was the one with the most notoriety," Baird said. "Now, our street officers are getting SWAT tactics training at that level. I attended the FBI SWAT school back in '94, and the training we did there is what our street officers are doing now. Law enforcement has really evolved - you have a better trained officer out there now than you did 20 years ago."

Although the officers were training in a school, the tactics can be used in any kind of situation in which SWAT tactics are needed, Baird said. The officers have trained in houses, schools and even movie theaters. Eerily, the officers trained at a local movie theater before the July 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., theater that left 12 people dead and 70 injured.

Baird said the officers are even quizzed about potential situations during their routine roll call before a shift.

"The officers are thinking more tactfully now when they go into a building, they're thinking 'What would I do in this situation?' And we encourage that at roll calls," he said. "At some of our roll calls, we'll say, 'You get dispatched to ABC Factory, what are you going to do, where will you set up? And what would be your tactical advantages based on the call?' We do that at roll call, and we feel that's important."

Baird said his officers are "constantly training on tactics," including regular shooting range training that is more than standing and shooting, he added.

Baird said all of the officers - including the sergeants and captains - participate in the training, and so does he. He recalled an incident as a police chief in 2005, when he fatally shot a man who was threatening police with knives outside a motel on U.S. Route 30.

"I was involved in a shooting in '05, and I know that if the bell rings and I'm the closest car, I'm gonna have to go, and it's important for all levels of the Oswego Police Department to be prepared for that," he said.

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