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Home  |  News  |  Police officers learn from hostage situation scenario

Police officers learn from hostage situation scenario

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - "Shots fired," blared over the police radios. A man had taken his wife and son hostage inside a home off Highway 17 North.

More than 40 police officers surrounded the home, some with their guns drawn. Suddenly a man wearing an orange vest labeled "Observer" walked through the crime scene, no gun, no armor.

He was one of several observers for the police department taking notes Wednesday in the emergency training scenario. The training division set up the scenario—a veteran who had returned from Iraq and barricaded himself inside a home with his wife and son.

The SWAT team, chaplains, fire fighters and hostage negotiators were there to respond to the mock situation.

Mt. Pleasant holds the large-scale emergency training sessions annually in an attempt to be ready for the worst case scenarios.

"Realistically, these types of events do happen," Police Chief Harry Sewell said. "It's valuable and at the end of the day we come out and evaluate how well we did and learn from our mistakes."

In Wednesday's scenario, the hostage negotiator managed to get the suspect to trade one of his hostages, his wife, for an inhaler. SWAT members' guns were drawn as he opened the front door of the home and pushed his wife, played by Mt. Pleasant Police officer Michelle Johnson, out the door, screaming and wailing.

"You start putting yourself into the role like what if this really was happening and it actually intensifies and I was crying and everything, like it was really happening," Johnson said. "It always makes it more realistic when you actually put yourself in the role."

The scenario ended when the SWAT team ignited a flash-bang, which rang loudly with a puff of smoke, then yells from SWAT members to get on the ground. The suspect was escorted out to the front lawn, with his hands bound behind his back.

Mt. Pleasant's fire department also got a chance at training to put out a fire started by the suspect. The realism is all part of getting the police officers the most out of the experience.

Even I got the chance to 'role play' as a reporter on the scene asking for updates and providing the public information as the scenario developed. An officer in charge of providing those updates frequently handed me a hand written note with the latest information.

We were staged outside a perimeter. Police typically block off the crime scene to keep civilians safe.

But this was different, police allowed us up close to see the officers in action, since under these circumstances, we would be safe. Going behind the crime scene tape meant standing for more than four hours. The insight though, worth the pain.

"That's the best way to learn so when it happens for real, we're prepared," Sgt. Mark Arnold said.

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