Thursday, August 31, 2006

Officers use old classrooms to learn tactics

From Daily Republic
By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - The "boogey man" waited for the police officers in a classroom of the old Crystal Middle School.

To get to their target, the officers swept across the deserted library. They crept around book shelves then slinked to the door at the rear of the library. One officer swiftly opened the door and the team poured into the room, each member racing into position.

Three of the officers pointed their weapons at an overturned table. Then Los Angeles police Officer Gus Chacon told them what to say.

"Suspect - let me see your hands!" Chacon barked.

Suisun City police Officer Pedro Arroyo was the designated "boogey man," as Chacon calls the pretend suspect. Arroyo stood up and sheepishly raised his hands.

Afterward, Chacon told the police officers how they could have better handled their weapons and approach the suspect.

For four days this week, officers from Suisun City, Rio Vista, Benicia and other local agencies will practice entering buildings and handling active shooters at the former Crystal Middle School campus. The skills the officers learn could be used in various situations, from serving search warrants to dealing with a barricaded armed suspect. The officers brushed up on their tactical training together so they could work together effectively during an emergency, Suisun City police Lt. Ed Dadisho said.

The abandoned campus was ideal for training because, with the different rooms, officers didn't know what to expect, Chacon said. Officers didn't use live ammunition or guns.

Four officers from the Los Angeles Police Department metropolitan division taught the course. The unit helps police throughout Los Angeles in special weapons and tactics, crime suppression, crowd control and other operations, LAPD Sgt. Andrea Balter said.

On Tuesday the officers began learning about clearing rooms of suspects. The basic skills officers gain in clearing rooms can be used for various situations such as serving search warrants, Balter said.

"Say you have two officers respond to a burglary alarm," Balter said. "They have to open the door and clear the building to make sure no one is in there."

On Wednesday, officers practiced apprehending active shooters, a police term for a suspect in the midst of attacking. The scenario was a school shooting with 18 dead and the suspect hiding somewhere on campus. Groups of officers cautiously trod through the littered hallways, their boots crunching on shattered glass. They systematically searched one end of the hallway before loud pops rang out.

The officers investigated the other end of the hallway. They slipped into one room full of cabinets and checked them. They opened one cabinet to find it splattered in red paint and Arroyo crouched inside.

Police developed active-shooter tactics because of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, Dadisho said. The tactics can be used for situations other than attacks at a campus.

"It can be in a house where the suspect is actively stabbing somebody," Dadisho said. "It can be used whenever there is a need for an immediate reaction."

Training will continue today and Friday.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

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