House set for demolition serves as training ground for police

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(Source: ADOT) (Source: ADOT)
(Source: ADOT) (Source: ADOT)
(Source: ADOT) (Source: ADOT)
(Source: ADOT) (Source: ADOT)

Officers with guns drawn, wearing full gear, breaking down doors and busting into a house.

It looks scary, but it's actually a valuable training exercise.

The Maricopa Police Department is using a house slated for demolition to help the officers train and prepare for real-life situations. 

Maricopa Police Lt. Mike Campbell says he "hopes" his officers never need to enter a home to remove a barricaded suspect.

But now, the officers will be more prepared, should the need arise.

This vacant house is an important part of the training.

With ADOT preparing to build a bridge carrying State Route 347 over the Union Pacific Railroad, officers have been able to train twice in a house acquired on the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

The home eventually will be demolished, but right now, it's a training ground.

Campbell said that the department’s Special Response Team has been using the home to train for potentially life-or-death situations. That included practicing how to enter a home with a dangerous suspect inside, breaking down doors and methodically working their way through the building.

“There are very few opportunities for us to train for these rare but dangerous situations,” Campbell said. “Every time our officers can experience the challenges that come with entering a building in a hostile situation means we can do a better job if this kind of situation arises. This makes our officers better at their jobs and it makes Maricopa a safer place for our residents.”

ADOT has a 25-year tradition of working with first responders to provide real-world training opportunities in the controlled environment of vacant buildings. Training collaborations like the one that took place this month in Maricopa date back to the construction of State Route 51 in the early 1990s.

Just last summer, ADOT-acquired properties along the route of the South Mountain Freeway were used to train fire and law enforcement officers from more than a dozen agencies. That included SWAT teams using homes to practice responding to hostage situations and the Phoenix Fire Department, which trained 48 ladder companies and scores of new recruits.

[READ MORE: A dozen agencies benefit after training in structures acquired by ADOT]

ADOT works side-by-side with emergency responders every day, said Brian Rockwell, ADOT assistant chief right of way agent.

“Police officers willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect all of us in dangerous situations,” Rockwell said. “When we have the opportunity to help them train, as we did here, we’re not only happy to do that but we consider it part of our service to the community.”

Construction of the SR 347 bridge begins this fall.

The two-year, $55 million project will carry traffic over the railroad tracks on a path just east of the current SR 347. It will alleviate congestion on a road that is expected to see traffic double to more than 60,000 vehicles a day by 2040 and save drivers the time of waiting for trains to cross the highway. The area now sees 40-60 trains a day, a number that is expected to reach 100 daily in the next 20 years.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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