Weber County Sheriff’s Office gives inside look at training exercises

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OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – Law enforcement is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year job. To keep officers prepared to respond in the middle of the night, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office holds an annual night-time training at the Weber County Sport Shooting Complex.

ABC4’s northern Utah correspondent Kade Garner took part in that training on Nov. 30 to learn first-hand what deputies experience during these exercises.  

The sound of gunfire engulfed a small room at the Weber County Sport Shooting Complex. However, the familiar sound was slightly different. The difference, the gunfire was being replicated virtually. Officials with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office had me step into the VirTra police training simulator.  

Projectors shined on large screens that created a 360-degree arena. Nonetheless, in this arena games aren’t played, but rather, interactive scenarios are played on the screens. These scenarios vary but are all similar to something law enforcement officials may face in the real world.  

During my scenario, I was asked to report to a noise complaint. Dispatched played over the speaker telling me a man was playing loud music in his garage. This man, the dispatcher said, was known to be aggressive toward police. I arrived “on scene.” After a short confrontation, the suspect pulled out a gun. I fired 7 shots in about one second. He fired one and a quick jolt of electricity to my hip let me know that I was hit as well.   

“It’s a perishable skill and if you don’t keep up on it, you’ll lose it,” Lt. Cortney Ryan with the sheriff’s office told me. Lt. Ryan invited me out to the annual night training with the sheriff’s office. “I think it’s key for the media, and also the public, to see what it is we do on a routine basis to maintain our skills and provide the best law enforcement we can to our communities,” he said.   

During this training, there are three exercises everyone must complete.  

There is target practice with live ammunition on the shooting range. This is done in the dark and officers must get a passing score during this exercise.  

There is the 360-degree virtual training. While the VirTra simulator offers many different scenarios, officers all completed one scenario that was set at night. A scenario that is likely to occur in the county.

This particular exercise is done individually.  

There is also a building clearing exercise. This exercise is done in complete darkness. It is also done in small teams. Lt. Ryan explained, “You’re going into a house in a building clearing situation, and you don’t know what’s lying around the corner.” 

During this exercise, a team of four entered a dark house (which is staged) and role players inside are hiding. The officers must carefully clear each room and find all the suspects. To make this as realistic as possible, officers and “suspects” are given handguns that shoot what could be described as a bullet made from chalk. The bullets leave marks similar to a paintball.  

After completing all exercises, Lt. Ryan told me that most law enforcement training happens during the day. This is great but does not help law enforcement prepare for calls that happen during the night. So, he explained, training in the dark is crucial for the officers’ and public’s safety.   

“It’s a habit,” Lt. Ryan stated. “You’ve got to be able to create those neuropathways and that reaction. I was involved in a very high-stress situation a few years ago, you know, and there were gunshots and things that happened, and I can tell you that you fall back to your training.” 

He said all department members go through this training every year. This means patrol deputies and correctional officers alike. They do this to keep their skills fresh and learn new ones as law enforcement and criminal tactics evolve.  

I had never participated in anything like the building clearing exercise before, but the sheriff’s office encouraged me to do it.    

“I’m sure you felt the adrenaline, you felt the anxiety, you felt a little pumped up,” Lt. Ryan said to me after.   

He was right. I felt all those emotions during the exercise. Especially during one split second. As my team was clearing our third room, I was securing an armed suspect I found in the closet. I could see he had a gun in his hoodie pocket, so all my attention was on him.

In the fourth room across the hall which we still had not checked, an additional suspect opened fire into the room where I and two others were at. The shooter hit me in the back of my right shoulder. At first, I did not know what was happening. I continued to focus on my suspect. Then, the officer watching our backs began to fire at the shooter. Moments later we were able to move into the fourth room and “arrest” the shooter.   

This may all seem intense, but Lt. Ryan explained that it is important to refresh old skills and learn new ones all while remembering what’s really at stake outside of training. “It’s life or death for you or a member of the public.” 

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