Tulsa hosts SWAT team competition
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Friday, October 21, 2011
5/30/12 at 6:29 AM
The best SWAT teams from around the world are facing formidable opponents in Tulsa this week: one another.
Seventy teams from the United States, Canada and Germany - including the Tulsa Police Department's Special Operations Team and the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office's tactical team - are competing in the U.S. National SWAT Championships at the U.S. Shooting Academy in Tulsa.
The event comprised three competitions. Sniper and tactical medical teams competed Monday and Tuesday. The team competition began Thursday and will continue through Saturday.
John O'Connor, executive director of U.S. National SWAT Championships, said the competitions bring out the best of the best in weapon and tactical skills that law enforcement agencies use in dangerous situations.
"Tulsa is the safest city in the world right now," he said.
The whistle blew and the loud boom of a flash-bang grenade reverberated from the metal shoothouse Thursday morning as the teams entered "an armed and barricaded situation."
The air fell silent, then the popping of gunfire followed for about two minutes. The team members quickly filed out with their target bound up and thrown over their shoulders.
Speed was only part of their goal. Accuracy was the other.
"Ultimately, that's what they have to be best at," O'Connor said.
The competitions also test how team members perform under pressure. Although the competition doesn't present the same kind of stress as an activated SWAT incident does, it still requires concentration and precision.
"Testing these skills in a high-stress environment like this is helpful to see how it stands up," said Capt. Ryan Perkins, commander of the Tulsa Police Department's Special Operations Team.
Perkins said it is difficult to re-create stress in training and practice. Using live rounds and performing in front of and competing with peers adds a different kind of stress, which makes the simulation more realistic.
And although the scenarios might not be completely true-to-life, the tactics the teams use are.
"Because we use real police skills, at the end of the day, they go back and they're more capable," O'Connor said. "That's the training you don't really get at home."
New to the competition this year was the tactical medical event, or TacMed. Team members had to respond to and defend a fallen officer with special equipment that simulated massive bleeding. The TacMed officer had to be proficient in whatever weapon was next to the officer and hit the targets.
"Our medics have to defend the officer and defend their lives," Perkins said. "You kind of hope you never have to put into practice those skills you train for, but we'll be prepared."
SWAT - or special weapons and tactics - is often the option of last resort for the most dangerous and tense situations law enforcement officers face. For someone on the other end of a SWAT team, the clock is ticking.
"If you see someone coming in dressed like Darth Vader and you've got your little gun, you're done," O'Connor said.
In another team competition Thursday, each team's shooters showed off their skills, running down the range and shooting at tiny targets - some no bigger than a silver dollar - from several yards away.
O'Connor said the competition is about more than being the best shooter.
"We have a single week that we can bring together top-tier teams and give them a chance to train, compete and interact with each other," he said.
The interaction helps team members learn what works for other teams and what could be incorporated into their tactics.
Perkins said it will help make the teams better.
"We see what the trends are with tactics and equipment," he said. "We want to have the best skills available."
Original Print Headline: High-intensity competition
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Officers Joe Bickford (front) and Jerrod Hart of the Tulsa Police Department's Special Operations Team compete Thursday in the U.S. National SWAT Championships at the U.S. Shooting Academy in Tulsa. Teams from across the world are in Tulsa for the competition, which ends Saturday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
SWAT team members from Independence, Mo., take part in the U.S. National SWAT Championships. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Alex Puett of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in northern California sights his rifle during a competition Thursday at the U.S. National SWAT Championships in Tulsa. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World