Salt Lake officers practice new training for standoff situations

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's been more than two years since the deadly Trolley Square shooting, and police are doing everything they can to prepare for situations like that in the future.

They conducted a special training session Thursday at a Salt Lake City school using new response methods. The scenario used: Three gunmen take over Clayton Middle School; Salt Lake patrol officers respond immediately. It's an active shooter situation and their instructions are clear.

"You automatically go right in and you take care of the problem," said Salt Lake City police Sgt. Robin Snyder.

But the method is much different than it was 10 years ago. Then, patrol officers would only secure the area and wait for the SWAT team to arrive. "They're not going in to take hostages and get money and a helicopter out of the country. They're going in for one thing, and that's to kill people," explained Salt Lake City police Sgt. Morgan Sayes.

Law enforcement agencies have learned a lot from recent shootings. For example, in Feb. 2007 five people were gunned down and four others were injured at the Trolley Square shopping center. Police say the tragedy could have been even more devastating had officers waited to move in.

"In a real-life situation, we have had more and more active shooters throughout the United States, and Salt Lake City is not immune from it. It's not 'if,' it's when. And we have to be prepared for it," Sayes said.

Thursday's training session was a success. Ten patrol officers located the "gunmen" and followed protocol based on their behavior.

"They did outstanding," said Sayes, who also played the part of a mock gunman. "They engaged me immediately when I shot the first couple of rounds at them, and one of them hit me in the hand as you can see."

Using blanks and simulated ammunition similar to paintballs, officers are able to trap the shooters. The lessons they learn are meant to save lives in the future.

"They got all three of the shooters and they were not hit. They were able to out-maneuver the three shooters and take them all down," Snyder said.

Officers used an old portion of a school that is about to be torn down. They say they conduct training sessions like this one as often as possible.



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