Clinton police officer Roger Schumacher is bombarded with pressure.
No matter how quickly he bolts across the Clinton High School gym, puts on a 40-pound vest or picks up a battering ram, his team leaders still yell to him, “Move faster! Let’s go!”
He charges up the stairs to the balcony seating, rips off his heavy helmet and puts a gas mask on. Weaving in and out of cones across the length of the balcony, he turns the corner to find his next challenge: a lifeless dummy weighing 165 pounds waiting to be dragged yards.
Gripping the dummy by two straps, he methodically breathes in and out to control himself during the brutal test. Finally, he turns another corner and makes a dash to the other balcony exit where he is met with cheers, applause and congratulations. Schumacher is a member of the Gateway Area Hazardous Entry and Approach Team, HEAT for short.
The obstacle course he and other members completed Tuesday is just one of the strenuous tests they will endure to keep on point and ready to handle dangerous situations.
The yelling from fellow officers is all part of simulating a real-life situation. At the end, all officers are recognized for completing the course.
“It’s about building that stress and also that comradery,” Tactical Team Commander and Clinton Police Capt. Bill Greenwalt said.
“These are the worst of the worst and most dangerous situations. You have to be able to trust your partners.”
The team consists of officers from Clinton, Camanche, DeWitt, Fulton, Ill., and Clinton County who respond to high-risk search warrants and arrest warrants as well as a variety of critical incidents such as shootings and hostage situations. This unnumbered group is comparable to a SWAT team.
“These are very dedicated, very qualified officers. A lot of work goes into being a member,” Greenwalt said. “You’re forced to come in at all hours of the night on short notice. They receive no extra compensation for being on this team, which they submitted their names to.”
Officers need to have a minimum of two years experience to apply for a spot on the team, but that experience is no guarantee they’ll make the cut. If they do, they will be put through at least a year of rigorous training before they are properly equipped.
Depending on the availability of team members, Greenwalt said team training occurs about once a month at various locations throughout Clinton County.
According to Assistant Team Leader and Clinton Police Officer Matt Lorenzen, the obstacle course that team members were subjected to as well as other training activities put their capabilities to the test.
“It’s important to maintain physical fitness as an officer and these officers are expected to go above and beyond that,” Lorenzen said. “It really tests an officer.”
While they are activated they will wear gear that weighs more than 50 pounds, not to mention weapons and other equipment they may bring to a scene when dispatched.
The team was started more than a decade ago by the Gateway Area Police Administrators, GAPA.