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March 5, 2014

Norman SWAT protects community, marks 40-year anniversary

NORMAN — The Norman’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team turns 40 this year. Like Scouts, SWAT is always prepared. This week, the team trained in an east Norman residential neighborhood using a vacant duplex to enact possible real-life scenarios.

“We’re doing a full-scale scenario training day with all elements,” Capt. Todd Gibson, the team commander, said on the scene Tuesday morning.

The Norman Police Department’s SWAT is multijurisdictional and includes officers from the University of Oklahoma Police Department and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Department.

SWAT is comprised of four elements, all of which must train individually within their specific disciplines as well as with the group. In a full-scale training, all four elements come together to work as a team.

Tuesday morning’s training scenario was a simulated domestic incident that turned into a hostage situation. Negotiators practiced their skills, but eventually shots were fired inside the training residence and tactical entry officers had to enter.

The tactical medics responded to the simulated injuries, where they delivered emergency medicine on the scene and transported the wounded for hospital treatment.

Norman SWAT trains once a month. Gibson said it’s important for team members to be prepared for the unexpected.

In real life, SWAT has been called out for full-scale operations as seldom as five times in a year and as often as 13 times. More often, elements of the team respond when needed — negotiators are called out to deal with suicidal subjects, for example.

“These guys are very well trained at negotiating in crisis,” Gibson said. “That’s what they do for a living.”

If the narcotics squad needs assistance, one of the two SWAT entry teams may be deployed to help. SWAT has a red team and a blue team, each with seven people.

“They are equal teams — they have equal operation capabilities,” Gibson said. “We’re being used throughout the year for a variety of different events, but we’re not always using the full complements of the team.”

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