PCSO and RCPD Take Training to a New Level at the Former Star Academy

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Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 8:31 PM MST
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It’s not every day the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Rapid City Police Department get to train for a real-life hostage scenario. But law enforcement and special forces got the opportunity to execute their annual full team training using real-life hostage scenarios with real-life people.

Training at the former Star Academy in Custer, a building that is set to be demolished soon allowed police, negotiation crews, and snipers to work together to complete the operation. Something that the Commander of the Pennington County Special Response Team says is vital.

Tony Harrison, Commander of Pennington County Special Response Team: “We will probably focus on hostage scenarios, because most everything else that we do, we can do in a normal building. When you have a hostage scenario we will use some tools that we don’t get to normally use because we can’t break things as much, so hostage scenarios because those are, besides an active shooter, a hostage scenario is the most critical call we will ever get.”

And when it comes to safely executing a hostage situation there are multiple moving parts to ensure that everyone stays safe.

Ryan Cook, Team Leader of Negotiations: “So, it gives each team, the negotiations team and the entry team and the sniper teams the ability to work together, see what each other’s roles are, the dynamics and how fluid things can be as we work through these scenarios, it gives us the idea from the negotiations standpoint what everybody else is doing and it helps us to understand sometimes why thing either happen the way that they do or take longer than maybe we think that they should. "

And the need for hands-on training for the Special Response Team has only grown throughout the years.

Tony Harrison, Commander of Pennington County Special Response Team: “When people who do the violent crime stop doing the violent crime, then we won’t need the SRT. But at this point, they are not stopping that. Last year we were called out 14 times and this year we’ve been called 7 or 8 already. Um, and so, when I got on the team 23 years ago we were called out maybe 2-4 times a year. 6 is a lot.”

And certain scenarios take hours, which Harrison states is important to do, as it simulates real-life situations and that this opportunity allows the team to find flaws in their system and grow from the experience.

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