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Cover Story

SWAT's Small-Town Question

Many communities do not field tactical incident units. How prepared are you?

April 01, 1998  |  by Dale Stockton

Larry Glick is the president of the National Tactical Officers Association, a nonprofit organization, composed of officers from around the country. He knows full well the controversy over SWAT teams. "Our profession has taken a lot of criticism from people who say there is an alarming rise in the number of SWAT teams," he said. "I think there is a rise in the number of teams, but not an alarming one."

Glick points out that contrary to media hype, the presence of a SWAT team does not aggracate a situation. "We've been collecting data on major incidents and we have our first year's worth of results. It clearly shows that the number of shots fired and the number of deadly force encounters go down as a result of SWAT intervention," Glick related.

The NTOA is also working to determine the number of SWAT teams across the country, a number which at this time is unclear. "We have 700 agencies holding a team membership and a total membership of 20,000 officers," said Glick. "But the total number of agencies having SWAT teams we could only speculate at this time."

Sometimes experience is a big city SWAT team gets transferred to a small town, much to the smaller town's benefit. Capt. Steve Taylor is a former member of LAPD's SWAT team and he believes strongly in the tactical options a SWAT team can provide. "SWAT is a life-saving entity. It's a group of highly skilled and trained individuals that is able to utilize specific tools as a surgeon does and surgically remove a problem. It is a much more controlled situation when SWAT is there," said Taylor.

Working Against SWAT

So why would any town not have a SWAT team? Cost is one factor. SWAT teams do not come cheap. According to the NTOA, a department should plan of $3,500 to $6,000 per officer in start-up costs. Hancock County's Major Karl knows first hand the challenge of funding a SWAT team. "We get $5,000 (total) funding from the three participating agencies each year," Karl related. "We need some weapons. We need ladders, rope and we're still trying to get good radios, headsets and night goggles."

The members of the Hancock County team have taken the challenge of funding in stride, though. "We do a lot of fundraisers like softball and volleyball tournaments. The banks have made donations and the officers have done a lot of shaking cans." Shaking cans? "Some of the guys got in their BDU's and stood by the highways for three days shaking cans. They raised $7,000," Major Karl explained.

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