Wayland’s long shut-down Polaroid Building on Boston Post Road saw more action last week than it has in quite some time.
On Wednesday morning, more than 100 police officers from across the state convened in the parking lot of the musty building for a day of intensive, situational Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and Regional Response Team (RRT) training.
The participants were members of various law enforcement councils from throughout the state. These LECs, Chief Robert Irving explained, are comprised of officers from multiple Massachusetts police departments who are trained to provide special services that no single department could supply on its own.
Wayland is one of the more than 40 departments that are members of the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (MetroLEC); Wayland has held membership for about the past eight years. Member departments pay an annual membership fee, Irving explained, and also commit about 10 percent of the department’s workforce to being involved in the council.
“I look at this as a very inexpensive insurance policy for the town,” Irving said, adding that Wayland called on a MetroLEC communication truck when the town's dispatch center was displaced during the 2010 floods. “We can very quickly have 30-40 officers here. To me, it’s a great example of regionalizing police coverage.”
From the Wayland Police Department, serves on MetroLEC's Child Abduction Response Team (CART) and Sgt. Sean Gibbons, who participated in this week’s training, is part of the council's Regional Response Team (RRT).
While team members generally train once a month, this particular series of training lasted the entire week, with only one day taking place in Wayland, and was specially designed to prepare the teams to handle coordinated simultaneous attacks like those that occurred in Mumbai, India, in 2008.
“After the Mumbai incident, police trainers started looking at this type of training,” explained Russell Jenkins, deputy chief of the and commanding officer of MetroSTAR (the Special Tactics and Response division of MetroLEC). “They’re training in tried and true military tactics that have been used for over 100 years.”
While situations like Mumbai are fortunately rare, Jenkins said the training was specifically designed to be useful in a multitude of scenarios, including more probable situations such as a single shooter in a public building.
Trainers from the Los Angeles Police Department guided the training, which was largely paid for by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Into the building
The training had a dress-rehearsal feel, with the men clad in full gear and toting weapons. Those weapons were marked with brightly colored tape to show they had been checked and were unloaded prior to entering the building.
Once suited up, the teams moved from the cold drizzle outside into the mildew-scented gloom of the deserted building.
“These types of venues are a gold mine for us,” Jenkins said, noting that when drills take place in more public places, nearby residents often call the local police station wondering what is going on in spite of best efforts to inform the public in advance.
The group of more than 100 officers split into smaller squads, which were comprised of three, four-member teams. Then the squads ran drills around the scenario of a single shooter, barricaded in an unknown room, with innocent people at risk or already hurt. No shots were currently being fired, so the squad couldn’t use sound cues to located the shooter.
“Everything we do is a game of angles,” said LAPD trainer Dain Hurst. He let the squads run their drills, but reminded them to maintain their diamond formations, check doorways carefully and, always – always – communicate with each other.
The teams moved quickly through curved hallways, into pitch black closets, around supporting columns in large, open rooms and, eventually, declared the space cleared.
“We’re looking for speed, coverage, organization,” Jenkins said, adding that the way the men hold their weapons is also important because if the weapon is too high, the officer’s focus could be narrowed toward where the gun is pointed, and he could miss activity in his periphery. “We need them to protect themselves while looking for victims – snap a corner, but don't expose their backs.”
The week’s training culminated Thursday at the South Weymouth Naval Air Station with a large-scale attack drill. Check out the coverage of that training on .
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