HELENA — Montana law enforcement SWAT teams respond to some of the most volatile and potentially dangerous situations in the state. An intensive week-long training course in Helena gave new SWAT members a taste of what they will face in the field.
“Typically, if SWAT is called in, it’s for reasons, risks and circumstances beyond what normal law enforcement would be able to handle,” said the Great Falls Police Department sergeant. said Matt Fleming.
Fleming was one of the Montana Association of Sheriffs and Peace Officers Primary SWAT Academy instructors. The week-long training began July 31 at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. Nearly 50 law enforcement officers from agencies across the state attended the training.
“(It’s) a lot of information, long days – most days are 12-13 hours,” said Capt. Conner Smith of the Montana Highway Patrol.
Instructors guided new SWAT team members through classroom lessons, and then students applied what they learned in real-life scenarios.
“What we practice today is when (suspects) come out and how to deal with them if they turn themselves in voluntarily and if they don’t comply,” said Flathead County Deputy Sheriff Wayne DuBois. .
The primary objective: de-escalation. DuBois said that in his experience, SWAT responds to a variety of situations, from calls about criminal violence to help with search warrants. He said SWAT teams often enter situations where suspects are armed or have weapons.
“We have a coordinated effort, and we have all of these tools to try to get people into custody without, hopefully, any force, just our presence,” DuBois said.
In addition to learning and developing skills, law enforcement at Primary SWAT Academy has strengthened interagency relationships — in Montana, where agencies often work together, this is important.
“There are guys who are our blackout all the time anyway,” Smith said. “Being able to train together in the same environment is ideal for us, and it’s a great experience.”
The Primary SWAT course is just the beginning – law enforcement will return to their home agencies and continue to develop the skills they have learned to serve and protect their communities.