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Portland Police Officers in the SERT program have been doing some of their training in Inner Southeast

DAVID F. ASHTON - In this training scenario, held at a vacant house near Johnson Creek - when SERT officers hear gunshots coming from the backyard, they cautiously open the fence gate before entering. In late summer and into October, neighbors near Johnson Creek in the Errol Heights section of what is officially referred to as the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek / Brentwood Darlington neighborhoods, said they'd been noticing Portland Police Officers, sometimes outfitted in tactical gear, in and around a vacant house located off S.E. 45th Avenue.

Saturday, October 21, was one of the days when officers and instructions were at the property, running though scenario-based trainings.

"This house has been reclaimed by the City of Portland, eventually to be demolished, allowing the watershed for Johnson Creek to expand," explained PPB Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) Sergeant Jim Darby. "So, while it's still standing, we're being allowed to use it for training.

DAVID F. ASHTON - SERT Officers here practice doing a pat-down on one another, performing a search for hidden weapons."Today, our focus is on basic safety strategies – including serving court-ordered search warrants and performing crisis rescues. That is, safely resolving what is sometimes referred to as 'hostage situations'," Darby told THE BEE. "This training isn't so much about practicing law enforcement tactics, as it is about keeping people – including the public, suspects, victims, and officers – safe. This we see as our primary mission."

The SERT team doesn't consider itself to be a militarized arm of the PPB, he remarked. "What we are is the largest skilled 'de-escalation group' for the City of Portland; roughly half of the SERT division are [certified] 'Crisis Negotiators', in fact."

Asked why they conduct such practice sessions out in the community, instead of at the PPB Training Center on N.E. Airport Way, Darby responded, "So many of these scenario-based trainings involve the process of 'thinking through' how we deal with different situations, and given scenarios; we can't get this from reading a book or a manual, or even in a PPB Training Center classroom."

After the brief break to speak with THE BEE, Sergeant Darby and the day's trainees began another scenario at that house.

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