Led by Cmdr. Capt. Robert Salinas, the SWAT team of 14 fortunately hasn’t had any deaths or any members shot during police action, but members have had to fire on a suspect a few times in the past.
The latest came in October 2003, when an Ohio fugitive was shot by a Kokomo SWAT team member.
The fugitive, Steve A. Murphy, 52, was injured, but survived.
Murphy was shot once in the abdomen after he allegedly held police at bay for two hours at an apartment in the Walnut Creek complex on the city’s far southeast side.
“We’re very fortunate,” said Arnett, who serves as assistant commander. “I like to believe it’s because we have highly trained officers on this team.”
Often, he said, SWAT units are portrayed in a bad light, which is not the case with this unit.
“People see SWAT on TV and the movies, showing SWAT unloading thousands of rounds and tearing up houses. It’s not like that. It’s all about safety,” said Arnett. “We are a life-saving unit.”
Unlike in larger cities, Kokomo and Howard County’s SWAT members are regular officers who work a scheduled shift and are called to SWAT assignments when needed.
The SWAT members have been through specialized SWAT training and have additional training once a month.
“We have a very specialized group of guys,” Arnett said. “We have a K-9 unit, bomb technicians and highly trained veterans.”
When it comes to training, Arnett said members prepare for the unknown. Incidents like school shootings or the Boston Marathon bombings are incidents that aren’t expected, but SWAT has to train for them, just in case.
“We try to stay on top of new things,” he said. “Like the Wal-Mart incident where a guy takes a child hostage. You never expect you have to shoot someone in a Wal-Mart. We have to train for anything.”