OAKLAND (KTVU) -- A police training exercise wrapped up recently in the Bay Area and Frank Somerville was embedded with SWAT teams from around the country to get firsthand experience of the kind of rigorous drills many law enforcement agencies are conducting.
During the 48-hour exercise, Frank and the participants were able to get about 90 minutes of sleep during the two-day event.
The 36 SWAT teams conducted a series of scenarios across the Bay Area that are based on a real life event that has happened somewhere around the world. In one situation, a diplomatic caravan was attacked by terrorists while other simulations included active shooters or emergencies involving hostages.
Frank, who wore a GoPro camera, was embedded with the Alameda County Sheriff's Department SWAT team. It was the first time a news reporter was ever allowed to take part in Urban Shield training.
One of the drills involved a situation in an abandoned East Bay building where Frank was a bad guy being sought by police. In the scenario, an officer has been shot and a hostage is being held. Simunition, a non-lethal form of ammunition, which stings on contact, was used.
When SWAT officers entered the room, Frank was able to squeeze off six rounds but was "shot" himself three times: in the heard, head and thumb -- "the one that hurt the most," he said.
In one of the scenarios, he used real ammunition with a Sig Sauer MPX 9 mm assault rifle.
"It was the first time I've ever shot a real gun," Frank said.
The big lesson for Frank was being able to see up close how SWAT teams operate and how they run toward danger while making quick decisions on how to respond.
During the drill, protesters greeted participating law enforcement officers and one woman messaged Frank to express her disgust with his participation.
"I was there to show people what SWAT officers dod when faced with a situation where innocent lives are at stake," he said. "You can agree or disagree (and) I'm not trying to convince anyone. I'm just showing people what it's really like for them."
A few other observations from Frank:
- "I think we're programmed to believe that everything happens like it does in the moview. This was nothing like the movies because everything happens really fast. When you go around a corner you have a split second to make a decision about whether to fire.And when you shoot there is no time to aim for an arm or a leg.That's literally impossible. When I was firing at the officer I was just trying to hit him.I didn’t care where.You hesitate. You die. It’s as simple as that."
- "I was also struck by how much the team members all care about each other. One of them told me: 'We would take a bullet for each other.' He wasn’t saying that for effect. That’s how they really feel. But what impressed me the most was watching them go into a situation. All they cared about were two things: Neutralize the shooters. And save the hostages. And I think that’s pretty impressive.
The Alameda sheriff's SWAT team won the competition during the exercise.
"What was great is that they let me in to see their world. They didn’t treat me like an outsider," Frank said. "And I really appreciated that."
By KTVU anchor Frank Somerville.