Webster Co., FD officers train to serve warrants
Webster County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Fort Dodge Police Department officers honed their skills with practice serving search warrants on an abandoned house near the intersection of North Eighth Street and Third Avenue North Tuesday afternoon.
There, the tactical team practiced their knocks, entry formation, shooting targets, responding to targets with changing threat levels and repetition for stressful environments.
The team practices about four to six hours each month, according to Webster County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Luke Fleener, using a stair-step training process that gradually builds their skills by reinforcing muscle memory.
“We prepare them for anything,” Fleener said. “As bad as this house is, it’s good for what we do.”
And while the tasks might seem straightforward, they involve skills that are difficult to master in environments with high stress levels, such as those dealing with dangerous suspects. Instructors work to keep participants mentally engaged with training that constantly adapts and evolves to real-world scenarios.
“The time to be at perfection is in real life,” Fleener said.
Even elements as simple as the time between announcing your presence with a knock and entering the building can be crucial. Fleener said that with time, local law enforcement officers serving warrants have learned that, often, giving a few seconds after a knock before entering amounts to a safety precaution for officers.
After the March shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, raised questions about whether knocks were heard prior to law enforcement’s entry. Fleener said knocking in a deliberate, visible way leaves witnesses with no doubt as to the warrant’s execution manner. Iowa does not use “no-knock warrants,” according to Fleener.
Types of entries practiced Tuesday included a dynamic entry and a “breach and hold” entry. The former involves breaching the door and pushing the sweep through a home forward immediately, where the latter allows for a knock and calls on the inhabitants to exit the home first, preventing mayhem when possible.
Dynamic entries can be used when the element of surprise is needed, where breach and hold entries may be used when dealing with violent suspects.
“The big thing is communication,” both within the team and with other subjects, said Fort Dodge police Sgt. Zach Stanley.