Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office hosts special weapons, tactical training for 16 SWAT teams _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELLYN COUVILLION - SWAT team members from the Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff's Office compete Tuesday in a drill that has them rescue a "wounded" officer and take up positions to fire at targets. The drill was part of a statewide competition hosted by the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office.

SWAT teams from 16 law enforcement agencies, along with U.S. Air Force security police and correctional officers, competed Tuesday in special weapons and tactics exercises as part of a weeklong training conference hosted by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The Louisiana Tactical Police Officers Association drew teams from police departments and sheriff’s offices around the state as well as from a Texas county sheriff’s office and the U.S. Air Force Base in Barksdale.

“It’s kind of neat to bring 200 people here from the four corners of the state” and beyond, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said.

The LTPOA has held annual special weapons and tactics training events since it was founded 18 years ago, officials said.

It alternates every year between a location in south Louisiana and one in north Louisiana. This week is the second time the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has hosted the training in recent years.

“Obviously, we believe in training,” Wiley said, indicating the 50-, 100- and 300-yard shooting range and training center his deputies have access to on South St. Landry Street, across from the Lamar Dixon Center.

Classes were planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the training center that was built four years ago.

The competition proceeded under cloudy — but not rainy — skies on Tuesday at the shooting range.

Officers competed in target shooting, simulating a variety of crisis situations, and on an obstacle course.

“You can’t even put a price on the training you can get here,” Chuck Bazile, president of LTPOA, said.

“We have instructors that come from all over the country,” said Bazile, who’s retired from the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he was SWAT commander.

“Not only is it the training, but something you can never replace is the networking that goes on here.”

For officers who might be working together in a crisis situation one day, Bazile said, “It puts names with faces.”

Competing on Tuesday were SWAT teams from the sheriff’s offices in Caddo, Calcasieu, Jefferson, Livingston, Ouachita and Rapides parishes.

SWAT team officers also were there from the police departments in Baton Rouge, Hammond, Kenner, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Shreveport.

State Police troopers participated as did officers from the Ouachita Correctional Center in Monroe and deputies from the Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office.

As the hosting agency, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office did not compete.

For the remainder of the week, the more than 200 officers will work on enhancing their skills in the classroom and in the field.

“The single most dangerous thing (a law enforcement officer) can do on American soil is to take down a barricaded subject who is armed,” Wiley said.

“We want to make sure if some guy dies, it’s the bad guy.”