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Fargo's old City Hall presents rare training opportunity for SWAT team

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Red River Valley SWAT team member Nate Nieman kicks open a door after breaching it with a shotgun round during a training session in the old Fargo City Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 5. The SWAT team uses disintegrating shotgun rounds made of clay dust to get through wooden doors and copper dust rounds for metal doors, concentrating the striking power only to the lock area. Training will continue at the site Thursday. David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO — You may hear loud bangs and see lots of armed officers outside Fargo's old City Hall this week.

No need to worry — it's just training.

The Red River Valley SWAT team is taking advantage of this empty building to practice for real scenarios. Being able to use explosives and tear down walls in an office setting is a rare opportunity.

SWAT commander Lt. Bill Ahlfeldt says it's his first time training in an office setting where they're allowed to make things go boom.

"Many times when we go to train at facilities, they're worried about us breaking things," Ahlfeldt said. "The great thing about us being able to train at City Hall is that we can break things for lack of a better term. We're able to use some of our tactics and techniques that cause damage."

As Mayor Tim Mahoney has said, it's OK because they don't need the old City Hall anymore.

"The old building goes down in the month of December," Mahoney said. "So by the new year, we'll have a flat space over there."

The SWAT team trained at the site Wednesday, Dec. 5, and plans to do so again 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday.

The emergencies the SWAT team deals with can happen anywhere. So breaking into rooms and getting used to the structure of an office space makes SWAT officers more prepared.

The team does smaller-scale training twice a month, but this week, all hands are on deck.

“We will have three times a year large scenarios like this, where we bring all three divisions of our team,” which includes tactics, bomb squad and negotiations, Ahlfeldt said. "We'll put together a full scenario where we can use all the arms of our team working in unison."

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