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Swatting The Bad Guys

Florida's front-line law-enforcement teams are ready for just about anything.

“Vessel Take Down:” During their April exercise at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, a SWAT team prepares to board a “suspicious” ship.

“Vessel Take Down:” During their April exercise at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, a SWAT team prepares to board a “suspicious” ship.

On April 12, a visitor to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce would have witnessed a scene that had little to do with ocean research but a great deal to do with the security of Central Florida.

On that day, over a period of eight hours, 125 members of SWAT teams from six Florida counties began a series of maneuvers designed to test their skills at handling terrorist situations on or near the water. Among the five scenarios prepared for the teams was “Vessel Take Down,” which involved boarding one of Harbor Branch’s ocean-going research ships, and “Small Craft Interdiction,” where SWAT members learned the art of transferring from one moving vessel to another. “Building Assault from the Water” taught the teams how to approach a targeted house from the water rather than from the land.

Each scenario lasted approximately 90 minutes and called upon all the resources of the SWAT teams – except bullets. Later, the good guys would sit down with the bad guys — members of other SWAT teams — to compare notes and figure out where the paramilitary operation might have been conducted more safely and efficiently.

Read the entire article in the Summer 2005 issue