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SWAT prepares for bank heist
Training exercise held in Newton Plaza
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Several Newton County law enforcement and emergency agencies participated in a mock robbery and hostage situation at Bank of North Georgia's Newton Plaza branch Tuesday. The annual training gave public safety personnel an opportunity to test their training in a real-life scenario.

"It's not only good for us to train with other agencies within Newton County working together, it's also a requirement for our accreditation," said Lt. Wendell Wagstaff, Covington Police Department public information officer. "We put up the signs that said training in progress so if anyone came by, they would know it's just a training scenario."

In addition to the Covington Police Department, the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Covington Fire Department, Newton County EMS and Covington Utilities participated in the training.

Lt. Wagstaff said the exercise gave the bank employees a chance to practice their internal safety procedures as well.

The training began at 7:30 a.m. with 10 bank employees being taken hostage by two robbers.

"The bank employees have been made aware that this is a mock bank robbery so no one has a heart attack or anything," Wagstaff said.

The department's hostage negotiators were brought in to reason with the robbers and the SWAT team, snipers and other officers were also deployed. About 25 officers and 15 public safety personnel participated in the exercise.

"We do a lot of situations like this. We try to make them as close to reality as possible," Wagstaff said.
In past years, the department has conducted this training centered on other incidents, including a hostage situation on a bus and a car accident. Wagstaff said the department chose to do the bank robbery because it's relevant.

"It's that time of season. Atlanta just had three bank robberies in the last couple of days. And, we felt this would be something good for us to be training with other agencies on," Wagstaff said.