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SWAT teams train for worst scenarios

If you saw SWAT team members running Thursday around the Loma Rica Ranch, be assured no real crimes were underway.

But SWAT teams from all across California were responding to simulated crime scenes at the ranch and other places, fine tuning their techniques for the real thing.

The training is part of a competition that has been done in Grass Valley for the past 22 years. It is hosted by the Grass Valley Police Department and Sierra College, according to GVPD Chief John Foster.



“The community has clearly been receptive to this and it gives us a lot of realistic training sites,” Foster said. They included the ranch, the Nevada County Fairgrounds and two firearm ranges among other spots.

“You get more done here in three days than you can do in other places in a year,” said Brian Martinez, serving as a SWAT instructor this year because his Livermore Police Department team tied for first place last year. When a team wins, it earns the right to produce the training and set up the scenarios the next year, Foster said.




One scene was a hostage situation in which the SWAT teams ran up a dark, narrow staircase in a horse barn. They turned the corner to find a man hanging in dim light by a noose with another man holding him and yelling, “I’ll kill him, I’ll kill him.” The deputies managed to save the fake victim before the suspect dropped him and set the noose.

At another station, Sgt. Josh Ratcliffe of the Livermore Police was running teams through a drug house bust scene. They were not given all the information of what they would find on purpose.

“We’ll change things up and see how they adapt,” Ratcliffe said. “In police work, things are always changing.”

Just before entering the hay barn, serving as the drug house, the SWAT team members were told they had to hit it at a precise time because their bust would be one of several simultaneous raids on related drug houses.

As they burst in, they secured one suspect on the floor of a room and then moved down a narrow hallway, where two members found a man in a corner with a baby doll. Although they quickly removed the baby and the man, they did not notice there was a methamphetamine lab in the same room right away.

That’s where the training comes through for the future, according to former Livermore SWAT team member Larry Anderson. He lives in Grass Valley now and helps out with the exercises.

“You learn techniques from other agencies,” Anderson said. “You may not encounter everything we do here, but you can get an idea of what to do if you see it.”

“You get to see different types of scenarios of what other departments have seen and what they can do,” said instructor Mike Ross of the Oakland Police Department. One of those scenarios was taught by Fremont Police officers who simulated a situation where a hostage was saved from an armed man.

“SWAT team volunteers for the most high-risk things that happen in their communities,” Foster said. “This provides the practice they need.”

“It’s the least we can do,” said Nell Scannon at Loma Rica Ranch. “We like to support our local guys,” through the competitive training.

Other police departments involved included Yuba City, Long Beach, Murietta, Lodi, Pasadena and Sacramento. Also participating were the Roseville-Rocklin Regional SWAT team, the Foothills Integrated Regional SWAT team from Placer County and the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department.

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To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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