SWAT officers face probe for consulting, no approval was given for workshops drawing on Columbine experiences

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By AJ Vicens

A training sergeant with the Port Huron, Mich., Police Department says he sees nothing wrong with paying for a few Jeffco SWAT members’ insights and training based on their experiences at Columbine and Platte Canyon high schools.

“This is a needed service,” Sgt. Scott Pike said last week after learning that several Jeffco SWAT team members were under internal affairs investigation for forming a consulting and training company without approval through their chain of command.

“This should be going to every law enforcement agency out there. If there was an administrative issue with their department, I can’t speak to that because I’m not a part of their department,” Pike said.

About 15 to 20 Port Huron police officers were scheduled to participate Dec. 7 in a one-day training course at $350 apiece, Pike said.

But Jeffco Sheriff Ted Mink shut down the operation — called TacOne Consulting, and apparently operated by four SWAT team members — when he learned about it last week. The officers involved were not allowed to comment on the story.

“Their intentions were completely honorable,” Mink said Monday morning in his office. The officers apparently violated department policy by setting up outside employment without getting approval. Mink said he thinks the officers didn’t give that policy much thought, but “for now it’s shut down until we can look at exactly what they were doing.”

The policy requiring approval through the chain of command is designed to give the sheriff and other managers an opportunity to ensure that the curriculum is sound and to evaluate whether any department equipment was being used in the training. “So far, they had not” used any department equipment, Mink said.

Mink said he wants his deputies and SWAT team members to share their experiences at Columbine, Platte Canyon and in other situations, “just not necessarily for profit.”

“We’ll even give them the time ee we owe it to our profession,” Mink said.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said it’s way too early in the internal affairs investigation to know what the punishments — if any — will be.

Mink said it’s common for law enforcement officers to travel around the county and offer training to one another, especially when there is specific experience involved, a sentiment shared by Pike and Capt. Mark Stone of the Riverton, Wyo., Police Department. Stone had also contracted for training sessions with TacOne, scheduled for Dec. 17-19 and involving some 20 officers.

“You can’t travel up to an area and put on a school for nothing,” Stone said. He added that he “kind of assumed they had everything squared away with their boss,” and that he would respect Mink’s decision and wait for everything to shake out.

Stone said Columbine was one of the reasons he signed his officers up for training with TacOne.

“One reason that they appealed to me was because of their experience at Columbine and Platte Canyon,” Stone said. “It kind of gives a little more local spin on what can happen, and we all know that Columbine was really a tactical and strategic nightmare for law enforcement. I think, because of Columbine, we’re all much better prepared to handle those types of situations if we ever have the unfortunate incident that we have to deal with of a school shooting. I was just interested to hear what some of the people had to say that were actually at those incidents.”

Pike agreed.

“That’s (Columbine) what we were going to talk about, and we were hoping to learn from them what they experienced, what was done right, what was done wrong, and how we can approach the same situation if it ever happened to us,” Pike said.

Mink said that experience related to Columbine and Platte Canyon was not the only thing TacOne offered.

“There’s more to what they were offering than those situations,” Mink said.

Contact AJ Vicens at: aj@evergreenco.com.