Valley’s SWAT unit stays vigilant for potential standoff situations

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Standoffs can drag on for hours, giving neighbors and others time to post videos on social media

(WKBN) – As police in Philadelphia continue reviewing Wednesday’s standoff with an armed suspect, the man in charge of the Valley’s SWAT unit said this is why his team averages about 30 days of training every year.

“I guess you’d call it a classic example of what most of our training is driving toward,” said Detective Sergeant John Elberty.

Throughout the siege, SWAT was called on to rescue two officers who were pinned down, as well as several other residents in the building.

The incident started with officers trying to execute a search warrant, which Elberty said is always potentially dangerous, regardless of how much intelligence police can gather in advance.

“You just can’t know who is inside, so one day, there could be two people in there. The next day, there could be 10,” Elberty said.

Elberty said the tensest moments come as teams are first entering a building, when suspects may be most likely to engage the officers.

“Once you get in, the kind of people, they know it’s for real. It’s serious. They know it’s the police, and a lot of times, that’s usually the end of it,” Elberty said.

As in Wednesday’s incident in Philadelphia and last February in Struthers, standoffs can drag on for hours. This gives neighbors and others time to post videos on social media.

While Elberty said that can give away tactics, it can also prove officers are doing their jobs.

“People videoing, thinking they were going to get something on law enforcement, end up turning it around and showing that we really didn’t do what people thought,” said Elberty.

Elberty said his teams train over and over to ensure they respond properly.

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