Training America's Police for the Next 'Paris' Within Our Borders
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Americans are more concerned about terror attacks within our borders than ever before. Many are asking if law enforcement is prepared to stop a terror attack in progress.
One training program is helping police train for the worst. Coordinated attacks on multiple locations can quickly bring entire cities to a standstill and present a nightmare scenario for any law enforcement agency.
Training for 'Paris'
Outside Little Rock, Arkansas, law enforcement professionals come from around the country to a 700-acre facility to find better ways to respond to such attacks.
The Direct Action Resource Center, known as DARC, has been developing counter-terrorism techniques for two decades and offers a special course several times each year for law enforcement.
"DARC was founded in 1996 as a way for special operations forces, law enforcement and military, to get kind of off campus, away from the flagpole, and do really focused, cost-effective training," DARC founder Rich Mason said. Mason is a former Green Beret.
"DARC focuses mostly on things like urban warfare, counterterrorism, things along those lines," he continued. "We have ranges for everything from sniper to pistol to concealed carry, low visibility operations, explosive breaching, things like that."
The Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism Course brings in police from all different agencies and throws them together in a chaotic, hyper-realistic scenario from day one.
"This course is designed to defeat a multi-cell attack, similar to Paris but actually worse in scale," Mason said.
Painfully Real Training
One of the things that makes DARC training so effective is that they have the participants bring the same equipment that they would take on their real calls.
The SWAT officers bring the same body armor, helmets, gas masks and even weapons that they use every day, with one important difference. During the training, their weapons are modified so they only fire plastic bullets.
The reason why that's important is because the OPFOR, or opposing forces, are all live guys and they are shooting back with the same plastic bullets. This isn't paint ball. These things really hurt. And the point is when you get hit, you know it.
That makes the training painful, but very realistic.
"The training is very important because it puts everything in a context for law enforcement. The aggressive nature of something like a lone-wolf attack with multiple guys, or a multi-cell attack is different than day to day. I guess you'd call it 'routine law enforcement operations,'" Mason said.
"It's mass chaos initially because you're going to get a bunch of different reports about a bunch of different issues," Memphis Police Officer Mike Cowan, who's been to DARC several times, added.
"There are not enough tactical guys on one team to respond to a major event like what we saw in Paris, and so we would have to integrate together," Cowan said. "And so having the opportunity to train and learn these tactics and then be able to teach these tactics so that we can all be on the same sheet is why we are here."
Giving Cops the Edge
Chris Amling, a sheriff's deputy in Pulaski County, Arkansas, told CBN News, "This is training you can't get anywhere else."
"When you have a guy who is actively trying to hurt you, and it's not for play, it's real life, you put a lot more into it, you take your time, your breathing goes up. I mean, everything feels real, it really does," Amling explained.
During the course, the scenarios the trainees encounter keep changing and getting more chaotic. That's done purposely, to keep the trainees guessing. That makes the value of the training even higher.
"You have everything from suicide vests to being shot at, you know. It's kind of a full spectrum of violence that we are able to simulate for the law enforcement entities that come out here," Mason said.
Cops are lining up for the training, often taking vacation time and spending their own money to attend because they understand what's at stake.
"It happens here in the States and we have to prepare for that and be ready for it, whether it's ISIS or homegrown terrorism," Amling said. "We've got to get this training, we've got to put it on our guys, and we've got to make this real world happen right now."
With the next attack likely a matter of when, not if, these men are spending lots of late nights at DARC making sure they'll be ready.
"Knowledge is power," Mason said. "Definitely. The more you know, the more you've experienced. It definitely gives you an edge."