PARKERSBURG - The Parkersburg Police Department held a SWAT training school this week, training officers from around the state.
Daily training was from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of a Thursday night hostage situation, said police spokesman Sgt. Greg Collins. There were eight departments and 16 officers who attended, he said. Instructors of the class set up real-life situations and officers who participated learned everything there was to know about SWAT calls. Collins said the program has been in place since 1998.
"This week we've taught them every type of injury you can do," said Collins of the program. "We've put them under pressure all week."
Officers from across the state work on SWAT training skills near an abandoned building at Ninth and Ann streets in Parkersburg. (Photo by Mandi Cardosi)
Collins said the program in Parkersburg is recognized by departments all over the state as one of the best training schools in which to send officers. He said the feedback is great and people continue to send people from their police departments to the school each year.
"We don't do it as a money-maker for us," said Collins. "There are expenses we incur like targets and training materials."
Collins said the Parkersburg Police Department is able to utilize the program by not only offering SWAT instructors but trainees. He said two officers with the department are being trained, and it is at no cost to the department.
The crisis negotiation team is on hand, and the training is also an opportunity for them to get some scenario training, said Collins. The most obvious traits the department looks for in students are shooting, maturity, the ability to think under pressure and the ability to work as a team.
"Those things are extremely crucial," said Collins. "We have to make sure we're getting the right type of person."
Collins said applicants most go through a rigorous entry to the program. The process includes applicants sending letters, taking a qualification course (in which they most score a 90 percent), passing the physical agility test they needed to pass at the academy and going through an interview process.
"This is an 80-hour course we're trying to cram into a 40-to-45 hour period," Collins said. "It's a different ball game than standard shooting."
On day one applicants are overwhelmed by the training they receive, he said, but after the third day they gain more confidence.
"We're hard on them, but Wednesday night you can see their confidence getting better and they start having fun," he added. "By today (Thursday) they're starting to have fun with it."
None of the officers who participate have been on a SWAT call, but by the end of the week they are completely trained and certified to be a SWAT officer, Collins said.
Cpl. Chris Aggleton with the Hurricane Police Department said he wanted to come to the training because he has always wanted to be part of a SWAT team.
"This school came highly recommended," he said. "The instructors are incredible. You can tell they really care that they pass good knowledge onto us."
Aggleton said he learned a lot about thinking in real-life situations. By learning a lot of the basics in the academy he was able to put his skills to use during the scenarios, he said.
Wheeling police Officer Ronald Faldowski said he learned the most about communication skills during the training.
"Communication both verbal and nonverbal goes a long way," he said.