Thursday, April 05, 2012
Four Tulsa police officers went overseas last month to train more than 100 of their Philippine counterparts in tactics designed to help them survive frequent battles with anti-government militants.
The training, sponsored by a police-focused Christian ministry, was intended to teach Philippine officers basic techniques for surviving shootouts, conducting vehicle stops and making arrests - with a ministerial twist.
"It's like they're an army on their own soil," said Detective Brandon Bennett, one of the Tulsa trainers. "We want to save their lives, but we also want to save their eternal lives."
The Tulsa officers - Bennett, Sgt. Bryan Bryden and Cpls. Carl Goforth and Dan Ward - paid their own airfare and hotel costs and joined several other American police officers in training a roughly 120-member contingent of the Philippine National Police from March 4 through March 12 in Batangas City.
Classes included tactical combat, special operations maneuvers and Christian-based ethics.
"Basic police tactics that we teach our rookies and our new officers right in the academy, a lot of these guys have never been taught that," Ward said. "I call it survival training."
And Philippine officers need plenty of it, he said.
The day the American officers arrived, an intoxicated motorcyclist slammed into their police transport van near the airport, Bennett said. The Philippine officers sped off, fearing an ambush.
"It's not uncommon for them to get in shootouts very regularly," Ward said, adding that three days before they arrived, a carload of Philippine officers was gunned down in Batangas City.
Many islands of the Philippines are havens for militant organizations that aim to undermine the government, including some with ties to al-Qaida, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Police officers carry assault rifles in case of attacks, even in cities, Bennett said.
The American officers' training included tactics for exiting vehicles during ambushes and reacting to sudden gunfights.
Much of the training took place on the Batangas City police training grounds - an empty field surrounded by the tin-walled slums of the city of nearly 300,000 people.
The police office itself has only a few cubicles to represent all major departments of the contingent, the Tulsa officers said.
Goforth said he went, in part, because of the working conditions. Ward estimated that each Tulsa officer spent more than $3,000 of his own money.
"You've got to kind of see it to really grasp it," Goforth said. "How could I not go?"
In addition to the course on ethical behavior, the Philippine officers were required to attend a church service, an inspirational speech and a showing of the movie "Courageous."
American officers also worked to teach their Christian values by example - such as by not participating in crude banter that is sometimes typical among police officers, Bennett said.
"They notice and ask why" we don't join in, Bennett said, adding that it's an opportunity to talk about Christianity.
"Police officers need a good ethical background, and we believe that being a good Christian provides that background," he said.
For the most part, the Philippine police were open to their religious message, he said. The country is largely Catholic, and its officers are familiar with the concepts but often do not live by them, he said.
"We can train the tactics all day long, but if we don't have the character and integrity, you're not going to be any good to us," Ward said.
It was the fourth year for the trip but the third year that a Tulsa officer has gone. It was the second time for three of this year's Tulsa trainers to make the trip.
Dubbed "Warrior Mission," the trip is sponsored by Ten Four Ministries, a national ministry directed by Tulsa Police Capt. Travis Yates, who made the trip in 2010 and 2011.
The ministry began donating bullet-proof vests to the Philippine National Police five years ago and "one thing led to another," Ward said.
Another trip is planned next year, along with a possible trip to Central America.
The ministry and its Philippine outreach are not sponsored by the Tulsa Police Department, and the Tulsa officers who attend say they do not wear their uniforms during the training or speak on behalf of their agency while there.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20120401_11_A4_CUTLIN135698