SWAT teams hone skills during multi-agency training exercise
SWAT teams from eight law enforcement agencies including the Cape Coral Police Department trained together Wednesday during a joint session in Fort Myers.
More than 150 officers participated in the operation at the former Lee County School District administration building on Fowler Street. Capt. Mike Torregrossa, assistant team commander for the CCPD’s SWAT team, said the session was an opportunity to create communication and unity among the SWAT teams and to assess each agency’s assets and resources.
“It’s the first time we’ve collectively tried to get all the teams together,” he said.
Along with the CCPD, the participating agencies included the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Myers Police Department, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, Naples Police Department and Bradenton Police Department.
Some of the scenarios the teams faced were officers in hostage rescues, public transportation and school bus assaults, active shooter situations and barricaded individuals. Torregrossa said communication was likely the biggest obstacle because each agency communicates differently during an incident.
But, he added, he was pleased with how well the officers dealt with it all.
“When the teams got here, they did not know what to expect in the scenarios,” Torregrossa said. “But they handled it very well. They adapted.”
“Surprisingly, this went extremely smoothly,” he added. “It exceeded my expectations.”
Torregrossa credited the event organizers for adding in some unexpected obstacles for the teams to face. For example, there were potential explosive devices and concealment situations where people were hidden away in places.
“It was an unexpected encounter that the teams dealt with,” he said.
The session also provided officers with an opportunity to share different perspectives for each scenario and exchange ideas on how to handle each.
“It was definitely eye opening,” Torregrossa said.
Adam Masino, an entry operator with the CCPD’s SWAT team since 2006, said he found communicating with the other agencies to be an obstacle, but added that everyone was friendly and easy to work with, which was a plus.
“It was good experience,” Masino said, adding that the Cape team got to learn about the tactics of the other teams. “It just helps build teamwork.”
Doug Coons, also an entry operator on the CCPD’s SWAT team, echoed that.
“A lot of the agencies worked together for the first time ever and they actually worked well together. Everybody jumped in,” he said. “It was great just to work together.”
Coons, who has been with the unit for about five years, said everything was well organized Wednesday and he felt everything “went well.” He would like to see the agencies get together at least once a year for a joint training event.
“To exchange ideas and work together,” Coons said. “Learn something new.”
According to Torregrossa, the session involved no overtime or “comp time,” which was an added bonus. He said they planned the operation well in advance to coordinate the resources properly, and the site was donated by the Lee County School District, and local vendors provided water and ice.
Lee County Emergency Management and the Southwest Florida Public Safety Academy provided support, and Lee County EMS participated in the session.