Closed nursing home serves a purpose for law enforcement
The empty rooms, hallways and lounges of the closed Cedarview Nursing Home complex on South Cedar Street served an important purpose for the South Central Drug Investigation Unit (SCDIU), as it conducted private training exercises.
The second floor of the empty nursing home served the unit a space to practice exercises in team building. Many of these exercises include searching and clearing indoor areas, which Deputy Sheriff Aaron Guzman said is “at the heart of what we do.”
“This is huge that we get this place. Lots of rooms, lots of hallways, so it is great,” said Guzman as he looked at the building. “The county owns the building. There has been a lot of red tape to cut in order to get in here, but everyone, especially the county administrator [Laura Elvebak] has been on board.”
The 20 individuals that serve on the unit met at noon on Oct. 14, and once suited up in their gear, they began classroom exercises. The exercises were scheduled to go until 8 p.m.
Guzman said that officers came from Owatonna Police Department, Blooming Prairie Police Department, Albert Lea Police Department, Waseca Police Department, Steele County Sheriff’s Office, Waseca County Sheriff’s Office and Faribault County Sheriff’s Office.
The unit serves four counties: Steele, Freeborn, Waseca and Faribault.
The South Central Drug Investigation Unit meets once a month; however, Guzman pointed out that there are additional exercises that many individuals fulfill outside of the sessions, such as running drills and shooting tactics.
According to Guzman, the unit would get called in high risk situations in which officers might need assistance. According to the SCDIU 2014 annual report, the unit’s focus is on controlled substance distribution rings, drug traffickers, dealers and gangs. “There is always a need for some sort of special response team,” said Guzman. “To be completely honest, the need is based on the community.”
The training exercise was about teambuilding. “The overall goal is see what we do under behavioral stress,” said Guzman. He explained that it is important to understand the natural behaviors in the stressful situations that they encounter.
Darin Palmer of Albert Lea Police Department was going to be guiding many of the exercises. He and Guzman indicated that they were going to be doing exercises with situations of “active shooters.” They were going to be used paint pellets.
Palmer emphasized that active shooters “go back to the dawn of time, 1900s and 1800s.” Due to social media, Palmer remarked that the term “active shooters” has become more popular.
“Active shooters make headlines in many social media outlets, so it has become more popular,” he said. “It is not new, but this day in age, we are dealing more with mental illness. Every place should have a plan in place.”
Palmer explained that since school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, law enforcement’s approach to active shooters has changed. Prior to Columbine shooting, officers had to wait until there were four officers on the scene to go into the building as a “four-man fire team.”
“Now, the first guy goes by himself,” said Palmer. “So you have to know how to manipulate hallways.” He explained the difference of one-man, two-man, three-man, and four-man fire teams as different approaches to geometry and angles, as the maneuvering is different depending on the team and the building.
“We are learning how to maneuver and work on clearing a room or hallway by yourself or with a team of four,” said Palmer. “There is a lot of art to it…a lot of coordination in movement.”