LMPD officers train for life-or-death decisions during SWAT Week - WDRB 41 Louisville News

LMPD officers train for life-or-death decisions during SWAT Week at Fort Knox

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bold, brave and ready for anything. WDRB joined LMPD's Swat team for intense training during "SWAT Week."

In mid-October, it is a beautiful sight at Fort Knox with just a touch of fall color creeping on the hills and knobs, but the serenity was interrupted by gunfire. SWAT week is is one of the biggest training weeks for LMPD's SWAT team and Ft. Knox lets them use the training grounds at no charge. The SWAT team practice different tactics with various drills. 

A shoot, no-shoot drill forces SWAT officers to make split second, life-or-death decisions using simulation ammo. Three officers act out different scenarios, where there may or may not be a "bad guy" with a gun. A SWAT officer has to give commands, like "drop your weapon," "show me your hands," and may have to make the decision to shoot if there is a threat. 

One officer made a mistake during training, shooting a cop instead of the bad guy. He was punished with 50 push-ups.

"We have to remind them also, if you made that mistake in real life, you'd be facing a lot more consequences than that," said Lt. Brent Routzahn, commander of LMPD's SWAT team. The drill prepares them for real-life situations. "It's called stress inoculation, it gets the training in them so they'll know how to act when it actually happens and they'll act correctly hopefully," said Routzahn.

The SWAT team is called out for many reasons. "We're used for high risk warrants, barricaded subjects, hostage rescue, active shooter," Routzahn listed. That's when their tactics come into play.

Many times, situations resolve peacefully. But earlier this month, the SWAT team used deadly force in Okolona. A woman with a gun barricaded herself inside a home with her 18 month old son. Officials say Tracy Wade agreed to come out, but when the SWAT team met her, she had a gun pointed at officers. She died from multiple gunshots. Four SWAT officers are on administrative duties during an investigation.

Just like the shoot, no-shoot drill, SWAT officers never know what they are up against. Lieutenant Brent Rouhtzahn, the SWAT commander, showed some of the weapons recently seized during dangerous search warrants. "You can see the magazines they have, these rounds here are to penetrate body armor," he explained. Routzahn also highlighted an AK-47 semi-automatic. 

"This weapon was seized from someone who was involved in criminal activity, not a law abiding citizen, a criminal. These are high-power bullets that's why we have to wear the armor and helmets that we do."

We saw SWAT officers with full gear on -- heavy vests and helmets, this time with live-ammo for another drill -- hostage rescue training. Many people question the militarization of police, but Routzahn points to the seized weapons. "The criminals are militarizing themselves. and as long as the swat teams and police deploy their equipment correctly, we shouldn't have any issues. but this is what we're going up against these days," said Routzahn.

LMPD's SWAT team has 45 spots including one woman this year. "You're seeing beat officers, detectives, narcotics guys, viper unit, we pretty much have the whole spectrum of the department."

To make the cut, officers must pass a grueling physical fitness test and interview, and that is not all. "They're special in the fact that they take extra responsibility, liability, and duty on the department. We're on call all the time, you have to make sacrifices here and there."

Fort Knox lets LMPD and many other police agencies use property at no charge. This is helpful with LMPD's swat team, because Routzahn says there is no live-fire shoot house in Jefferson County.

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