In an open field in Simsbury this week, SWAT teams from across the country are converging on Connecticut to compete in the SWAT Team Challenge.
The West Hartford Police Department is hosting the competition, which is not only an opportunity to win, but also to learn.
“You can count on one hand how many events there are like this in the country,” Lt. Jeremy Clark, of the West Hartford Police Department said. “You can count on one finger how many of those do as much as we do. It’s only us.”
Twenty eight teams from across the region are taking part in the event, which is happening at a time when police presence is top of mind. Even those who are competing said it is hard to escape the images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, where police shot an unarmed teen.
“Every situation is different, whether it’s Ferguson or Sandy Hook, our number one concern and number one goal here in Connecticut is to keep the public safe and have the best training so we can make the best decisions,” Lt. Clark said.
The training includes everything from sharp shooting to throwing flash bang grenades, and each team has a limited amount of time to complete each drill. They say making snap decisions is a big part of being on the front lines of a crime scene.
“I think just that stress they put on you to complete the event so quickly, it helps us in real-life events,” Joao Chaves of the New Bedford Special Reaction Team, said.
The SWAT Team members breathe a little easier knowing the courses are filled with fake targets, but it is all based on scenarios that are very real. It is the type of training they said is key for when it is not a drill.
“The world is getting to be kind of a crazy place and unfortunately these types of tactical teams aren’t going away,” said Michael Shaw, who responded to the bombings in Boston. “There’s a need for them.”