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Wednesday, May 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Real-Life Spd Blue A Big Hit Open House At Training Center Shows Public Inside Story Of Law Enforcement

By Virginia De Leon Staff writer

It doesn’t always happen in real life, but the cops caught the bad guys Saturday.

The offenders drove a gray Chevrolet sedan into the Spokane Police Regional Training Center, where police dogs snared them in minutes.

The chase was greeted with applause.

It was one of the highlights at a Spokane Police Department open house. For eight hours, hundreds came to watch shooting demonstrations, a hostage rescue and police dogs that jumped over 6-foot fences.

“People don’t understand the complexity of running a modern police department,” said police spokesman Dick Cottam. “What they see is on television or in the movies. Real police work isn’t like that.”

That’s why the Police Department started the open house in 1991. Although it’s been four years since the last demonstration, police hope to offer one every two years.

It’s important for the community to understand the job of a police department, police Chief Terry Mangan said.

Most people associate cops with a patrol car, Cottam said. Few realize that the police department is made up of 30 units, from investigation and fraud to hostage negotiations and dignitary patrol.

“This is an educational thing,” Cottam said. “It’s also good to let the public meet police officers in a non-confrontational setting.”

People came by the busloads Saturday, shuttled for free by Spokane Transit Authority from Spokane Community College.

While some petted the horses ridden by mounted patrol officers, others checked out the vintage police car or “Elvis,” a remote-controlled robot that defuses bombs.

During a SWAT team demonstration, six men with combat helmets and black clothing staged a hostage rescue. They barged into a small room screaming and shooting at hanging cardboard dummies.

“We have to train for every situation that can happen anywhere in the world,” said Skip Pavlischak, the assistant SWAT commander.

The SWAT team is usually called during hostage rescues, high-risk arrests and other special situations.

SWAT teams typically don’t shoot people, Pavlischak said. “It’s exactly the opposite. … We very seldom have to use force.”

At the ropes course, police officers walked slowly across logs suspended 40 feet in the air. They also showed off their firearms training system, a video program that simulates crime scenes.

“I wanted to let the kids know that police officers are nice and friendly and not the bad guys that some think they are,” said Conni Berland of Spokane as she waited to get shots of her two grandchildren on police motorcycles. “This is educational. They’re really enjoying it.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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