When called to an incident, members are tasked with lugging around 60 to 65 pounds of tactical gear, which includes a BDU or Battle Dress Uniform consisting of camouflage pants and shirt, a helmet, eye protection, elbow and knee pads, protective boots, a gas mask, a fully automatic rifle and ammunition. SWAT also has access to ballistic shields and less-than-lethal weapons, which include bean bag rounds, rubber bullets and Tasers.
Like KPD’S SWAT unit, the Howard County Sheriff’s Department SWAT handles barricaded subjects, hostage negotiations, high-risk warrants and search warrants, Cmdr. Capt. Greg Hargrove said.
“We probably average four or five times a year,” he said of the number of call-outs.
“We also have a local agreement with Tipton where our SWAT unit and dive teams get called out. We probably have more calls in Tipton than we do here,” he said.
The team consists of nine deputies and two medics.
When his unit is called to a situation, Hargrove said the key is gathering as much information as possible before going into action.
“Usually there’s an officer on the scene setting up perimeters and giving us information. Plus we have hostage negotiators who set up a report with the subject.
“We try to gear up for the worst case,” he said. “A lot of it is gathering information and making sure our facts are correct and set up some kind of communication.”
Instead of having a deputy on the scene rush in with adrenaline pumping, SWAT members and negotiators can keep the situation under control.
“It gives the suspects time to regroup and think about what they’re doing. We basically defuse the situation. It gives everybody time to take a breath,” Hargrove said. “Suspects are more willing to talk to you. We’re there to back up the negotiators.”