Photos and text by Brett Gibson
In a joint operation with the Albany Police Department and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, several law enforcement officers and an EMT have been spending their free time during the past several months putting together a Special Operations Response Team (S.O.R.T.)
Once a week, every week, several members of Clinton County’s law enforcement, including Ricky Marcum, Steve Martin, Josh Asberry, Brad Cross and Tactical Medic Travis Denney, have been running through scenarios and using the school’s facilities as a training ground for possible threats. Denney said their practice sessions last three to four hours each time they get together.
After the recent shooting spree in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 dead, including 20 young children, response training will be taking place in large and small communities across America.
Parents and school officials in Albany and Clinton County should feel some relief that our community has a jump-start on that type of training with local law enforcement officials who took the initiative several months ago.
Obviously, from what happened in Newtown, Conn., there is a need for such training among law enforcement and several members of Clinton County’s law enforcement see the need for such a team in the area.
“There isn’t a team who does this kind of training within miles of us,” Marcum said.
Marcum has been trained and is a certified S.W.A.T instructor and a firearms instructor and he is giving his knowledge and teaching officers in the county.
“We’ve been doing this for a little more than three months,” Marcum said. “We do a little bit of everything … high risk search warrants, rural movement operations, hostage rescue, active shooter, linear assaults … things like that.”
Among the officers involved, there is a sense of pride for their county, which is one of the main reasons they are giving their free time to put together a team of this nature.
“It’s a sense of giving back to the community,” Denney said. “It is extremely important to be ready for such an event. We can at least have someone on the scene to set up a base of operations. You just never know, especially with the drug problems we have here.”
Among some of the training drills, the team has been practicing for a “bus assault” with a linear approach in case they have a threat that involves a school bus.
“We can do a couple of things. One drill we use to approach from the rear of the bus,” Denney said. “The sheriff will use his car as a shield and we will be walking from behind using it as cover. When he gets to the point to where he can’t go any farther, we are going to go split up and do our assault on the bus.”
In addition to practicing the school bus assault response, the Special Operations Response Team works at clearing classrooms and hallways in case a shooter is inside the school building.
During the practice sessions, live ammo isn’t used. Each member of the team checks and rechecks each weapon to make sure it isn’t loaded.
“We were all talking and this is rural America. Just about everybody has guns. We have the same problems that big cities do, just at a lower scale,” Denney said. “We are doing this not just for clearing buildings and stuff like that, but if there is a four-wheeler wreck or anything, we have a reaction team to go to the site. Ricky (Marcum) went to a S.W.A.T. school and we knew nobody around us has a team like this. It’s better to be proactive than reactive. We don’t want anything to happen, like what happened at the school (in Newtown, Conn.), to happen here.”
Albany Mayor Nicky Smith as well as Sheriff Rick Riddle and Albany Police Chief Ernest Guffey are on board with the unit. Riddle said this is a good thing these guys are doing.
Other than helping during a crisis situation inside the county, Marcum said the team could be potentially called to surrounding counties as well.
“There isn’t another team of this nature anywhere in the area, so we could possibly be called to assist other counties,” Marcum said. “I would like to think that if we had a situation where there was an active shooter, other counties in the area wouldn’t even ask to help … they would just come and, so we would be the same way if something happened anywhere around us. We take pride in keeping the schools safe.”