SARPY COUNTY, Nebraska – On an otherwise calm and clear October evening in Sarpy County, streets were closed, emergency services were on the ground and in the air, and hostage negotiators worked through the night.
It was all a practice.
During an eight-hour evening training session, the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office, Papillion Police, La Vista Police, Papillion Fire, and county medical and communications units collaborated to establish a cohesive emergency response team.
Six News was invited behind the scenes to acquire a better grasp of the necessary training and preparation.
Chris Witted, chief of police in Papillion, Nebraska, stated that none of the participants in the drill have any idea what will transpire. This is by design.
Chris Teuscher, lieutenant of the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office, stated, “Once they arrive, they must adapt to the circumstance, utilize their training and skills, and proceed accordingly.”
There is no live ammunition for those participating in the practice, but the pressure is real and the activity is fierce. When the exercise is initiated, more than seventy personnel are mobilized throughout the county.
Whitted stated, “You have tactical negotiating and Tac-Meds, which is tactical medicine.” There is a S.W.A.T. squad, a drone team, a dispatching team, and a command post.
In this scenario, a police officer is shot and requires emergency transport. A medical helicopter lands nearby, and teams must transport the injured in a safe manner.
At a different location, the possibility of barricaded suspects, hostages, and an unidentified cache of weapons necessitates a comprehensive response, including intelligence monitoring and gathering, drones in the sky, negotiating crews, and more. Attempting to learn as much as they can, they adapt to the scenario as it unfolds, just as they would in a real-life situation. In this instance, lessons learnt are advantageous.
“You can really push all of those disciplines, combine them, and observe how they come together, interconnect, and form the desired symbiotic relationship,” Whitted explained.
Even a simulated news conference was staged to evaluate an information officer’s reactions in the crucial interchange of information with the media, a vital channel for keeping the public informed and secure.
Typically, law enforcement training necessitates individual travel, which is costly and involves time away from the work, but is essential for staying sharp and informed on the most recent equipment and methods. However, these exercises establish and test crucial synergy, allowing departments to save money by combining their resources.
“We do this twice a year, and each unit trains independently throughout the year,” Teuscher explained. “However, when we get together, we ensure our efficiency… and cohesiveness, which is crucial in the event of a high-risk occurrence.”
This particular training session, from warrant to resolution, lasted around eight hours, not to add the preparatory time of several months. The time spent on teamwork that the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office hopes will ensure the safety of the community in the event of a coordinated response.