HOUSTON - Ukrainian police are now using tactical skills they learned from police in the United States to fight against Russia.
"We’ve taught them a lot of tactical training," said Randy Upton, a recently retired Lieutenant from the Houston Police Department. "Firearms training, a lot of crowd control training, and critical thinking. I’d like to believe that’s helping out right now."
Through a program with the United States Department of Justice, Upton has visited Ukraine several times since 2016 to teach the country’s new police officers. Upton says at least five Houston police officers have joined him for the trips, possibly as many as 10 times since 2016.
"The Ukrainian people are very proud and they’re very strong," said Upton. "They have the will to fight for their country. I believe they’ll continue doing so."
Throughout the last six years, Upton says the Ukrainian and American police officers have developed strong friendships. Upton shared a photo with FOX 26 of them all together in Texas at the Houston rodeo, and in Ukraine outside a restaurant called ‘Texas Ranch.’
Over the last week, Upton has been anxiously watching the news. He says he’s been in contact with many of his Ukrainian police officer friends while their country is attacked.
"I pray nightly and I pray daily [for them]" said Upton. "My heart pounds every time it takes a while for one of them to reply [to my messages]."
Over the weekend, one Ukrainian police officer sent Upton a selfie photo. In the photo, the officer can be seen wearing a bulletproof vest with a "Don’t mess with Texas" patch attached.
"When I saw that on there, it made me proud," said Upton. "Hopefully our training we gave them keeps them alive and protecting their country."
Upton says he plans to return to Ukraine once the conflict is finished to help clean up and rebuild. However, he says Ukrainian police are running low on medical supplies. If you’d like to help, click HERE. Upton says they’re planning to transport much needed medical equipment to Ukraine as soon as possible.