One of the flood-ravaged homes on State Route 202 near Fall City was the place where members of the Valley SWAT Team—not this Valley, but a regional team for South King County—got down to basics all day Thursday, Jan. 10.
The team, which is made up of police officers from Kent, Renton, Auburn, Tukwila, Federal Way and the Port of Seattle, meets to train every month. Thirty members spent from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday in Fall City. Squad cars, vans and an armored truck lined up on the highway outside as the officers, clad in black or camouflage, some carrying non-lethal firearms, practiced in and outside the house. A sandwich-board sign out front announced to curious passersby that this was a practice scenario, not a real raid.
"Today is a back to basics day," said Kent Police Cmdr. Raphael Padilla. "We're practicing what we call entry tactics"—methods to safely enter homes where suspects have holed up. This session was more about techniques than technology such as breaching charges.
"You can never practice the good, basic techniques of what we do enough," Padilla said.
Officers practicing in Fall City, Padilla said, come from a wide range of experience in police work. With most of these officers performing other full-time duties, with SWAT as a secondary speciality, practice is important, and Padilla said these officers do it as often as they can.
SWAT teams—the acronym stands for "Special Weapons and Tactics"—are used in the highest-risk law enforcement operations, such as hostage rescue, dangerous arrests and the confrontation of heavily-armed criminals.
"By the time you're calling SWAT, you've exhausted normal level resources and training," Padilla said. "You're calling on advanced methods to deal with the situation."
Padilla told the Record that flood-damaged or vacant homes like the Fall City residence are perfect for this kind of training.
"Before they bulldoze them, they'e great venues for us to practice in," he said.
According to county property records, this home, in the 34600 block of State Route 202, was reviewed for flood damage and destruction 2009. King County bought this property for $315,000 in 2011.
Recent SWAT Team activity in the Valley included an assistance by King County SWAT in the Kittitas County investigation of a burglary ring in December at a downtown Snoqualmie residence. SWAT was also involved in the manhunt for murder suspect Peter Keller last April.