By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Knees bent and backs curved, the officers walked forward and fired their guns in unison at their target.
The eight Portales police officers were in training Tuesday at a city-owned shooting range just southeast of town to become a special response team. The team was receiving techniques to deal with active shooter and hostage situations.
“Looking back at Virginia Tech, Columbine and Sandy Hook (school shootings that took place in recent U.S. history), it’s important that the police department has a team to respond to these kinds of incidents,” said Chief of Police Doug Jones.
Jones said he saw the need for this training after schools in Portales required extra police presence in December based on rumors of possible planned shootings. Jones said with the multiple school shootings within the last few years, threats like those are not taken lightly.
“They’re going through 40 hours of very special training,” said Jones of his officers. “I have brought in three of the best trainers in the country.”
J. Michael Chapin, owner of Black Duck Corp., and his team conducted Tuesday’s trainings. He has worked with Jones before while Jones served in the FBI and his corporation specializes in trainings, investigations and counterintelligence.
“The primary thing here is for them to work as a team,” Chapin said. “This is a buddy system that incorporates tactical maneuvers. Communication is imperative.”
Chapin said he’ll be working with the officers for the remaining of the week, but Tuesday’s exercises focused on shooting and moving.
Chapin said the group used tactical rifles, which can be used in negotiation situations or securing and clearing out buildings.
“They’ll learn to survey each room to determine safety,” Chapin said. “It’s not what you do when you get in, it what you do before you get in.”
Chapin said these techniques can also be used during drug searches and that this team can be used as an entry team for many situations such as an active shooter school system or narcotics.
“The public can take comfort in knowing we are the best in what we do,” said Lt. David Meeks, the team’s leader.
Meeks said while any patrol officer has received this type of training at a police academy individually, this training emphasized working as a team. Meeks said the eight officers chosen for the team excel in areas such as tactical shooting that are needed.
Meeks added that within the 10 years he’s been at the department, there were several times where the techniques in the training could have been utilized.
“We’re just being trained to handle each situation.”