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'Primary Goal Is Active Shooter Response': Miami-Dade Police Priority Response Team Trains For Whatever Comes Its Way

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - After the 2018 Valentine's Day tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students dead, Miami-Dade Police began brainstorming how to prevent mass casualty incidents from happening.

The answer they came up with was a specialized unit, highly skilled and created solely for priority response police work.

It's almost like a movie watching Miami-Dade's priority response team work together to clear a building.

Armed with rifles, batons, and other weapons for protection, they hardly make a sound. Their movements are perfectly choreographed but constantly changing based on what they find.

"It is very much like a dance," says Priority Response Team Officer Kristopher Welch.

"Their bread and butter, their primary goal, is active shooter response," says Manny Malgor, who oversees the Force Analysis & Training Development Unit.

"When there are dozens if not hundreds of variables in every situation, how do you train all of those variables effectively?" said Carlos Gonzalez, Director of Miami Dade Public Safety Training Institute.

Officers push past the limit of what seems physically possible. The men and women in the unit are hyper-trained to react in an instant.

"The mentality is that if we ever have to, we're ready," said Welch.

"Most police shootings happen in less than three seconds. Most police use of force happens in less than two," said Gonzalez.

"It's not always a pretty job, but again I tell you, we show up," said Charlie Johnson, a Basic Training Commander for the Miami-Dade Police Department.

"Active shooter incidents are happening more today around the country. It's important. Especially to protect our children," said Malgor.

There are eight districts throughout the county. A priority response team is assigned to each one.

"They go out to schools, hospitals, and business centers. They do walk-throughs so they're familiar with the schools, with the layouts of schools, who's in charge, who's the point of contact," explained Malgor.

The 60-plus men and women in the unit are tasked with handling the most difficult problems that arise.

"Let's say a man with a gun at a Metrorail station, an armed subject, a burglary in progress," he explained.

For these men and women, some of them with Navy and other military backgrounds, serving and protecting others is a way of life.

"I don't care who you are, everybody wants to lay down in their bed at night and know they're safe," said Johnson.

A commitment, a burden, and a responsibility they're proud to carry.

"When we respond to these incidents, we go with the thought in mind that we're going to take care of business and that we're going to make it home and the individuals involved will make it home as well," said Welch.

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