Set for demolition, former STAR Academy campus hosts law enforcement training
CUSTER, S.D. — In the skeletal remains of the old STAR Academy in Custer, a rare opportunity for Black Hills law enforcement agencies to come together and practice.
The Rapid City Pennington County Special Response Team, snipers, hostage negotiators, Rapid City Police and Fire, and even South Dakota Highway Patrol were all there to practice a hostage negotiation exercise in a way they don’t often get to – utilizing the campus grounds before they’re demolished.
“It allows us – because this building is going to be demolished – to do things that we can’t normally do in our training sites,” says Captain Tony Harrison, commander of the Rapid City Pennington County Response Team.
Snipers were hidden amongst the weeds, and trained on a window – a room where hostages were being held.
Entry teams lined the hallways of the destroyed building, looking like a scene out of “Modern Warfare,” while hostage negotiators using throw phones communicated with the hostiles.
All of these teams working in conjunction and cohesion to prepare for similar scenarios in real-life.
“It gives each team – the negotiations team and the entry team and the sniper teams – the ability to work together and see what each others roles are the dynamics and how fluid things can be as we work through these scenarios,” says Ryan Cook, who served as the negotiation team lead for this training scenario.
The training? As realistic as possible to engage those participants with laser-focus and tactical precision.
“This team is a life-saving team – we’re only here to save lives – not do anything else other than that,” Capt. Harrison says. “And so our goal is to be the best-trained team in the state of South Dakota, and I really believe that we are.”