Tracking training keeps officers sharp

BRIAN HEAD ­- Law enforcement from Iron County scoured the mountains surrounding the Brian Head Grand Lodge on a manhunt Wednesday. They followed footprint and blood trails along the side of a road and down into a heavily wooded valley when a shotgun blast forced them into cover.

Luckily,the scenario was part of a week-long training exercise and the man they were tracking was a fellow law enforcement agent. The training was part of the Backcountry Tactical Tracking Training Program in which local special weapons and tactics operatives learn valuable tracking skills and get to put them to practice during simulated exercises.

Half a dozen law enforcement agents from Iron County,including members of the Enoch Police Department,Cedar City Police Department and the Iron County Sheriff’s Office,were part of the 21 operatives from across Utah that received the training sponsored by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Enoch Sgt. Mike Berg organized the event and received funding through the Rural Policing Institute,a federal agency that funds rural law enforcement for training purposes.

“This training is vital to this area,”Berg said. “If we didn’t have ties with the Rural Policing Institute,we couldn’t afford this. It would have run through our entire training budget on two guys.”

Berg was an instructor with the FLETC in New Mexico before relocating to Enoch. His push to provide tracking training for Iron County’s law enforcement stemmed from situations where his own training helped bring in dangerous suspects or save lost children.

“When (deputy) Brian Harris in Kane County was killed,I was called in and we used this training to track the suspect,”Berg said. “You use this for anything. It could be if someone just shot a cop or if a child goes missing. The concepts work either way.”

Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said that the training will be helpful by providing more deputies with “important skills.”

“This basically trains our guys to be trackers,”Gower said. “I want as many of our guys to receive this training. It adds more value to the department.”

The training involved many aspects of tracking over a variety of scenarios and landscapes.

“When these guys are done with their training,they’ll be able to track a guy across a parking lot,”Berg said.

Training also included situations specific to night time tracking including how to navigate using the stars and a compass.

“We use the GPS,but what happens when that fails,”Berg said. “This helps us be prepared in any situation.”

Berg said the training will be especially useful in Iron County if marijuana grows continue to be an issue.

“It could have helped us out in the Pinto grow,”Berg said,referring to the Aug. 23 bust of  a marijuana farm near Pinto where three suspects were tracked but got away. “Before there was only a couple of people who could have helped. Now every agency will have some (officers) and we’ll have one full squad who are trained to work together.”

Gower was excited about the potential for the newly trained trackers in the field.

“It’s an important tool we’ll have access to,”Gower said.


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