Petal Police Department hosts SWAT competition

By HASKEL BURNS,

Seven law enforcement agencies from around the region – including members of the U.S. Army – recently participated in a two-day SWAT competition in Petal to hone their skills in crisis situations.

The yearly event, which was hosted Wednesday and Thursday by the Petal Police Department at the department’s firing range, saw members of PPD, Hattiesburg Police Department, Forrest County Sheriff’s Office, Lamar County Sheriff’s Office and others taking part in various live-fire activities.

“The reason that we do this is because it’s really hard for agencies to train, due to budgetary concerns, manpower issues and call volume,” said Clint McMurry, director of the Columbia Law Enforcement Academy.

After forming six-man teams, each agency trained with rifles, handguns and shotguns. Teams started with sniper rifle activity, in which each sniper took a 200-yard shot before an entry team scaled an obstacle to get to the simulated crisis location.

After the sniper took a second shot, the entire team moved forward to a handgun and shotgun relay. At that point, the team hauled a 175-pound mannequin from the scene, simulating a live rescue.

“So this is simulating getting into a hot zone, exchanging fire with the bad guys, and then rescuing an officer or a downed civilian and taking them back to safety where we can work on them,” McMurry said. “It’s really, really good training.”

This week’s competition marks the second time since 2016 Petal Police Department has hosted the event, as different agencies take turns as the home site.

“They and (Petal) Chief Matthew Hiatt have done an outstanding job of doing this,” McMurry said. “Mark Hicks (of the Petal Police Department) has kind of spearheaded it, and they’ve worked for months to get the range ready, the equipment ready, and the supplies ready to make this happen.

“We’re not sure where next year is going to be, but this has been once of the best.”

The Lamar County Sheriff’s Office placed first in the competition, followed by the Pearl River Sheriff’s Office in second place and Hattiesburg Police Department Viper team in third place.