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SWAT Teams Drill Downtown, Still Face Communication Issues

Brian Kelly
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX)- It looked real. An armored car was parked in the 1500 block of Pine. Officers wearing full gear were walking carefully along the wall of an apartment building, entering as a group through the front door. On an upper-floor balcony stood a half-dozen men wearing gas masks.

But it was only a drill.  The latest in a series conducted by the St. Louis City and County SWAT teams.

The scenario was a terrorist takeover of a downtown financial institution. The teams were able to take their time, until they got a report that a hostage had been stabbed.

St. Louis SWAT Team Commander, Lt. Mike Deeba says this scenario is unique, but the training pays off in real SWAT situations, “If we have a barricaded our tactics might change, we might more slow, methodical. That’s how this scenario was. All of a sudden the scenario changed now, hey, you gotta go dynamic. There’s somebody dying, now what are you going to do.”

Deeba says one real-life challenge for the area’s SWAT teams is inter-agency communication. He says it showed itself nearly two years ago, when a gunman went on a rampage at the ABB plant in north St. Louis, “Being a team commander, myself and other team commanders had multiple radios. Our goal, and FBI St. Louis is helping us with this, is to have one frequency.”

Deeba says the situation is improving. The city teams can now communicate with the count teams and the FBI, but they still don’t have direct communication with the St. Charles County SWAT Team.

Deeba hopes that will be resolved soon.

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