Police officers from across the Texoma region gathered at Grayson College this week to learn the basics of Special Weapons and Tactics, which departments nationwide have incorporated in their approach to law enforcement.

The five-day, 60-hour course was organized by the school and the Texoma Regional Police Academy and administered by instructors with the tactical education group Charlie Mike Enterprises. Officers from the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sherman, Howe and Grayson College police departments all participated in the program. The course included time in the classroom, but focused heavily on physical tests and simulations.

“What we’re looking at are the fundamentals in SWAT,” instructor Mike Witzgall said. “That’s comprised of room clearing, team and individual movement formation, communication and response to hostage situations.”

Grayson College Patrol Officer Michael Flippo said he got the idea to host the training in Grayson County after realizing that the area’s officers and agencies had to travel well south of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for the nearest SWAT-education program.

“We have multiple police departments, a police academy and a criminal justice program here,” Flippo said. “So I thought to myself, ‘Why are we not getting this training right here on our home turf?’”

America’s first SWAT department was founded by the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1960s as a response to multiple shootings of civilians and police officers by snipers, many of which occurred during the Watts Riot in L.A. In the decades that followed, SWAT teams became more prevalent as departments nationwide engaged in the War on Drugs and looked to increase security after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

“It has become crucial on several different levels,” Witzgall said of SWAT training. “Studies published by the National Tactical Officers Association have shown that having a SWAT team or — at a minimum — a containment team, cuts down on liability and the chances of a deadly-force confrontation. And there’s the application in active shooter and hostage situations, the war on drugs, dope raids and hazardous warrants.”

Flippo explained that while departments in the Texoma region are limited both in their number of officers and in their access to training resources, the need for SWAT tactics has remained. And because the participating officers were all trained on the same curriculum, Flippo said area departments would be better able to assist and coordinate with one another if a large-scale emergency were to unfold.

“We’re working as one big group and we’re all on the same sheet of music,” Flippo said. “If we have something that happens on our campus, these are the guys who are coming to help and vice versa.”