Monday, May 14, 2007

Civilian Police Academy - SWAT

What I'm reading: Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

What I'm writing: "The End" (until I go back and fill in all my 'insert XX scene here" markers)

Can't believe it's taken almost a full week to finish posting about last week's class, but I did treat myself to a Mothers Day break. We have our last "real" class tomorrow -- the final week is a party.

The Orange County Sheriff's Special Weapons & Tactics began with 5 deputies in 1974, using equipment they purchased themselves. Now, there are 42 members of the team. Of these, only 4 are full time dedicated SWAT officers. The rest serve in other departments as well, but are on call 24/7 for SWAT. They respond to felony calls, and serve search warrants for things like drug busts or hostage situations, where someone is threatening harm to himself or others, not the knock on a door and ask if Mr. Jones is home kind. The number of officers going out on these calls surprised me, but they have to cover all possible entrances and exits, provide backup, and try to get inside the house before the drugs get flushed. (But the deputy liked it when they tried, because he said the toilets often can't handle the load, and then they get to weigh the drugs AND the water, which can bring the charges up to a trafficking level.)

Their mission: To Save Lives. Too often, the public image is a bunch of guys who go in shooting bad guys.

There are 3 teams, each on call for 10 days a month. However, if there's a "full response" needed, they all go. There are also specialists who are not part of SWAT who offer support by setting up command posts, gathering intel, setting up surveillance equipment, phones, etc. There's also support, when available, from the fire department.

Training is ongoing. The selection process is tough, and then they're on probation for a year, when they're going out on as many calls as possible.

We got to play with their toys, too. Lots of guns, different kinds of projectiles such as 'bean bags' and 'rubber bullets' -- you don't want to be hit by these, trust me. Flash-bang grenades with 6-8 million candle power (not sure I got that term right, but the numbers are correct). The force SWAT brings to the job has to be equal to or more than the bad guys. They are very proud of their equipment, and most of it is financed by federal grant money, so it doesn't cut into our tax dollars and isn't part of the salary budget. Which is a good thing--these guys don't make nearly enough money as it is.

We went down and looked at their vehicles -- and I sat behind the wheel of their 'bear cat.' Way cool.

1 comment:

Carol Ann Erhardt said...

Terry, just taking time to tell you how much I'm enjoying your sharing your experiences with us.

Carol Ann