MARICOPA – While Lt. Mike Campbell hopes Maricopa Police Department officers never need to enter a home to remove a barricaded suspect, a partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation has helped them prepare, just in case.
With ADOT preparing to build a bridge carrying State Route 347 over the Union Pacific Railroad, officers have been able to train twice in a house acquired on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. The home eventually will be demolished to make way for a new alignment of Plainview Street that will connect Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway to Honeycutt Road and SR 347.
Campbell said the partnership ensures that the department’s Special Response Team has the opportunity to train for potentially life-or-death situations. That included practicing how to enter a home with a dangerous suspect inside, breaking down doors and methodically working their way through the building.
“There are very few opportunities for us to train for these rare but dangerous situations,” Campbell said. “Every time our officers can experience the challenges that come with entering a building in a hostile situation means we can do a better job if this kind of situation arises. This makes our officers better at their jobs and it makes Maricopa a safer place for our residents.”
ADOT has a 25-year tradition of working with first responders to provide real-world training opportunities in the controlled environment of vacant buildings. Training collaborations like the one that took place this month in Maricopa date back to construction of State Route 51 in the early 1990s.
Just last summer, ADOT-acquired properties along the route of the South Mountain Freeway were used to train fire and law enforcement officers from more than a dozen agencies. That included SWAT teams using homes to practice responding to hostage situations and the Phoenix Fire Department, which trained 48 ladder companies and scores of new recruits.
ADOT works side-by-side with emergency responders every day, said Brian Rockwell, ADOT assistant chief right of way agent.
“Police officers willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect all of us in dangerous situations,” Rockwell said. “When we have the opportunity to help them train, as we did here, we’re not only happy to do that but we consider it part of our service to the community.”
Construction of the SR 347 bridge begins this fall. The two-year, $55 million project will carry traffic over the railroad tracks on a path just east of the current SR 347. It will alleviate congestion on a road that is expected to see traffic double to more than 60,000 vehicles a day by 2040 and save drivers the time of waiting for trains to cross the highway. The area now sees 40-60 trains a day, a number that is expected to reach 100 daily in the next 20 years.