Undercover narcotics officers from around the nation learned how to clear a room of threats with "speed, surprise and aggression" Thursday during a counter-drug training course at the Nevada Department of Public Safety in Carson City.
Inside an empty building in the Stewart Facility, police officers with blue, plastic handguns charged into rooms in teams shouting, "Police with a search warrant! Police with a search warrant! Put your hands up!"
Thirty-six officers attended the two-week training, which ends today. "The training encompasses everything from undercover operations to surveillance and law," said Detective Sgt. Paul Pabon with the Department of Public Safety. "It's intense -- we cram as much as we can into those two weeks."
Originally developed at the Southeast Public Safety Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., the course also teaches officers how to breach doors with a battering ram, identify illegal drugs, remove criminals from cars, collect evidence and use informants.
This is the fifth such class at the Stewart Facility. The students are law enforcement officers from Nevada, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arizona.
"This is designed to be a basic narcotics officer school," said Pabon.
The course is centered around an elaborate scenario involving a "huge, multi-kilo drug deal," Pabon said. The officers start with classroom lectures, then act out what they have learned. Tuesday, the group practiced surveillance techniques with officers on foot, in vehicles and in two airplanes. The "bad guys" are played by experienced narcotic officers.
"They know how to play both sides of the fence -- they've seen it in the field," said Pabon.
After the trainees track the drug shipment, gather evidence, and storm the "stash house," they will make their case against the accused in front of a mock jury of Douglas County High School students.
"After that, we'll have a short graduation ceremony and everybody will go home --Ehopefully, with some knowledge," said Pabon.
In the counter drug training, officers used "Simunition," 9 mm handguns that shoot plastic, paint-filled bullets. Cardboard Harley-Davidson boxes were taped on the walls to protect the Stewart buildings, and mattresses protected the windows.
"Come through the door like you own it -- you just kicked it in, you paid for it," said instructor Matt Alberto, a state police lieutenant in Las Vegas.
He instructed his students, who were all wearing body armor, to avoid the "fatal funnel" of a doorway.
"If I'm standing here in front of the door, and daylight starts to come through," he said, referring to bullets coming through the door, "how far do I have to move to get into a safe position?"
While some trainees might say "run away from the door," he said the best thing to do is step to the side behind the wall.
As the officers prepared to make a final assault on the empty building, trainers pumped them up.
"OK, everybody ready?" they asked. "What are we hunting here? We're hunting people. Make me proud."