PPD SWAT team trains in New Mexico

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Eleven members of the Pelham Police Department SWAT team traveled to New Mexico to receive in depth training from New Mexico Tech, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency from Nov. 17-21.

The program, Prevention of and Response to Suicide Bombing Incidents, consisted of a week of intensive training in Playas, N.M., in abandoned town in the dessert, just north of the Mexican border, Pelham Police Sgt. Doug Setliff said.

“Because of the increase in threat of suicide bombing, they’re preparing local law enforcement for a response,” Setliff said. “The focus was more for the homegrown (terrorists), but with everything going on right now, they talked a lot about ISIS and Al Qaeda.”

The Pelham police officers learned how to spot possible threats, from indicators such as suspicious purchases to identifying explosive delivery and dissemination devices.

“We learned things to clue in on, indicators that we could identify,” Setliff said. “They showed us the precursors (to making a bomb).”

Officers from Pelham partnered with members of the Seattle Police Department SWAT team to gather intelligence, execute searches, handle hostage situations and diffuse potentially dangerous events in a variety of scenarios.

“We train for the worst case scenario,” Setliff said. “We want to know how to handle things other than your traditional responses.”

The training also challenged officers to think through situations and make decisions based on particular case law.

“It’s not a traditional one person, one weapon (situation),” Setliff said, noting potential large-scale destruction and harm in a suicide bombing event. “It was them giving us a problem and asking us how we would solve it using case law.”

Using knowledge and strategies gained from the week of specialized training, Setliff said the Pelham SWAT team will be able to strengthen policies and plans for potential suicide bomb events and weapons of mass destruction situations. They will also perform risk assessments throughout the city.

The training program also served as a certification course, Setliff explained. After completion of the week-long program, the 11 Pelham SWAT team members received certification to lead the program.