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Glendale SWAT ropes up

Police officers team up with fire department to learn rappelling and knot-tying skills

August 10, 2007|By Jason Wells

SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — Even for seasoned tactical police officers, dangling out of a second-story window with nothing but an anchored rope system to prevent a 20-foot fall can spark a spat of nervous joking.

"Is that soft cement down there?" one Glendale Police SWAT officer yelled to a group of Glendale firefighters below.

Such was the scene Thursday afternoon at the Glendale Fire training facility as about 15 Glendale SWAT members got a lesson from their firefighting counterparts in how to tie complicated knots, anchor heavy-duty ladders and rappel down a 60-foot high structure.

About a dozen members of the Glendale Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue team, which specializes in complicated rescue scenarios, taught the course as a way to prepare the police officers for certain response calls, where a suspect might be barricaded in a high, hard-to-reach place, officials said.

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"This will just increase our ability to respond to those types of incidents in those types of structures," said Glendale Police Lt. Todd Stokes, who is also the tactical commander for the SWAT team.

Police officers typically receive very little, if any, training on rope systems and rappelling, a void that was highlighted in May, when a man barricaded himself on a 4-foot, second-story ledge of an apartment building on the 400 block of West Lexington Drive, he said.

He was eventually subdued and brought down, but the skills the SWAT officers practiced Thursday would have come in handy, he said.

"We discovered at an event like that that we were limited," he said.

While Glendale Fire almost always arrives alongside a SWAT response, they can only do so much when the culprit could be firing a weapon instead of expelling smoke, fire Capt. Ron Gulli said.

"We don't go where bullets fly," he said.

With fire ladders at the scene, SWAT team members can now man their own operation without relying on a rushed crash course from responding firefighters, Stokes said.

Thursday's exercise was also touted as a way for members of what are essentially the tactical response teams for each department to get to know each other, Glendale Fire Capt. Vince Rifino said.

"It's that face recognition that's important," he said.

In addition to the lessons on how to plant and raise a detached ladder, the officers also climbed up into the third-story window of the hollowed-out fire-training structure via a 100-foot ladder attached to a fire truck.

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