Training for real life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2005

Teams of camouflage-clad officers repeatedly banged on the front door of the dilapidated house.

Weapons drawn, members of Suffolk Police Department’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) kicked the door open and quickly spread through the vacant two-story house in the 100 block of South Saratoga Street.

Out on the street, passersby heard a single loud explosion as officers searched the house while attempting to execute a warrant.

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It looked like the real thing.

It sounded like the real thing.

But even though they treated it like the real thing, Wednesday’s incident was a practice exercise for the CIRT team’s 20 members.

&uot;We critique everything we do out here,&uot; said Capt. Dean Smith, who oversees CIRT training.

&uot;We know all the technical procedures…and bring it up every time we stray from established procedures.

&uot;This could be a life and death situation for us…so we are incredibly brutal on each other,&uot; he said.

&uot;We do this training…so that when something happens in real life, we will be ready to handle it properly.&uot;

Members of the CIRT team, made up of representatives from all areas of the police department, receive specialized training in an array of areas, including hostage negotiation, explosive breaching, and using a canine unit.

The CIRT team would be the first to respond to incidents related to homeland security and school shootings, Smith said.

The team spends two days a month practicing maneuvers in various vacant buildings throughout the city, Smith said.

Although the team has a couple of buildings it uses on a regular basis, they try to practice in different vacant houses or buildings as often as possible, Smith said.

&uot;If we use the same place too often, the officers get too familiar with its layout,&uot; Smith said.