A six-day Maritime Tactical Operations Training course began Monday, Aug. 12, at Superior High School. The students include 17 tactical (SWAT) officers from throughout the state: Brown County, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Oneida County and Eau Claire. There is one Minnesota participant from St. Louis County.

The training involves activities aimed at increasing the officers’ confidence and ability to function in water situations. On Monday, that included accidental immersion training in the dive pool for officers wearing heavy tactical vests and carrying a rifle. In the lap pool, officers took turns escaping from being buckled in an enclosed, immersed space. The Shallow Water Egress Training simulated being trapped in a submerged helicopter or car

“The lower level of this is basic water confidence: Getting in, realizing that you can get out of this, realizing if you go into deep water you can get out, realizing if you hold your breath for a certain amount of time you’ll still be fine, you just need to control your panic,” said instructor Capt. Tom Champaigne with the Superior Police Department.As training progresses this week, the officers will expand their operations into the lake, harbor and local marinas.

“We’ll be out and about,” Champaigne said. “People will see us. We’re going to be wearing BDUs, tactical clothing, tactical gear, helmets, which they don’t normally see.”

A police officer gets flipped upside down underwater in a training seat in the pool at Superior High School on Monday afternoon.  (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
A police officer gets flipped upside down underwater in a training seat in the pool at Superior High School on Monday afternoon. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Activities may include boarding a Vista Fleet boat, combat drills inside a vessel and touch and go practice with a pair of boats. Some participants may get inserted into the water and left to swim back to a designated spot without being detected.

The training, offered through Mar-tac Solutions LLC of Florida, is funded by the state’s Aligned Law Enforcement Response Teams.

“The state says this is important to us,” Champaigne said. “We want departments to be able to operate in the water comfortably.”

This is the fifth class to take place in Superior, according to Mar-tac founder Derek Creamer, a retired officer with the Lee County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office.

The training, which can be tailored to skill levels and officer duties, comes in the wake of a Minnesota tragedy. A conservation officer died after being thrown from a boat on a Pine County lake in April. He was not wearing a life jacket.

"We don't go into the water without our safety — our floatation, our helmet," Champaigne said. "We don't want to see anything like that happen to any of our law enforcement."