Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team
SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team is an elite tactical unit in various national law enforcement departments. They are trained to perform high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular officers. SWAT team members’ duties include: performing hostage rescues and counter-terrorism operations; serving high risk arrest and search warrants; subduing barricaded suspects; and engaging heavily-armed criminals. SWAT teams are often equipped with specialized firearms including submachine guns, assault rifles, breaching shotguns, riot control agents, stun grenades, and sniper rifles. They have specialized equipment including heavy body armor, ballistic shields, entry tools, armored vehicles, advanced night vision optics, and motion detectors for covertly determining the positions of hostages or hostage takers inside enclosed structures.
The first SWAT team was established by inspector Daryl Gates in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1968. Since then, many American and Canadian police departments, especially in major cities and at the federal and state-levels of government, have established their own elite units under various names; these units, regardless of their official name, are referred to collectively as SWAT teams in colloquial usage.
The Hays County SWAT team was first established in 1994, and was originally called SORT (Special Operations and Response Team). The team was reorganized and joined forces with the San Marcos Police Department in 1997, and was renamed SWAT. The SWAT team typically responds with the Hays County Crisis Negotiations Team (CNT). This ensures that the officers responsible for talking to the individuals in crisis are kept safe and can concentrate on their assignment knowing that they have protection from the potential threat posed from that individual.
The SWAT team members are all attend a week long Basic SWAT Course and must pass a rigorous application and testing process. Numerous training days are held throughout the year to enhance team response and maintain readiness. The Hays County SWAT team has received numerous awards.
Crisis Negotiations Teams (CNT)
Crisis Negotiations is a technique for law enforcement to communicate with people who are threatening violence, including barricaded subjects, hostage takers, stalkers, threats, workplace violence, or persons threatening suicide. Modern hostage negotiation principles began in 1972 when, then New York City Police Detective and psychologist Harvey Schlossberg recognized the need for trained personnel in the intervention of hostage situations. Schlossberg had worked on the “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz case and had instituted other psychological principles in police work, including implementing psychological screening of police applicants, a now standard procedure in virtually all police agencies throughout the United States, and the use of hypnosis in police interviews of witnesses and suspects.
The first Crisis Negotiation Teams were often created as elements of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Teams and were often utilized simply to create a diversion or delay for the deployment of SWAT Teams. Hostage negotiation has developed into a science. Hostage negotiation teams are often deployed in conjunction with SWAT Teams or sometimes independently.
The Hays County Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) is comprised of officers from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and the San Marcos Police Department. The team was formed in 2000. The team currently has 15 members that respond on a 24/7 basis for crisis situations that occur within Hays County. A crisis situation includes: suicidal and/or barricaded subjects, hostage situations, high-risk warrants, emotional disturbed individuals and any other situation deemed necessary on a case by case basis.
The CNT typically responds with the Hays County Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team. This ensures that the officers responsible for talking to the individuals in crisis are kept safe and can concentrate on their assignment knowing that they have protection from the potential threat posed from that individual.
The CNT members are all certified Mental Health Peace Officers and all attend the 40-Hour Basic Negotiation Course. Numerous training days are held throughout the year to enhance team response. This includes classroom training, equipment drills and scenario-based training exercises. The team currently has equipment comprised of an external high-volume speaker system and tactical “Throw-phone” for use in communicating with subjects. Their goal for the future is a Command Response Vehicle to replace the one destroyed by fire in 2003.
In 2002, the Hays County Crisis Negotiation Team took 1st Place Honors in the Annual Crisis Negotiation Competition, Police Division held in San Marcos. This conference has been held for the last 15 years and is well-known and respected by Negotiators across the country.
Multi-Jurisdictional Strike Team Taskforce
In 2008, the Hays County Sheriff’s Office sent a select group of deputies to become crowd control instructors, at the beginning of 2009, the Hays County Sheriff’s Office entered in to a Multi-Jurisdictional Strike Team Taskforce with agencies from several surrounding counties. The Taskforce handles special security details to protect persons and property from disruptive groups. The Taskforce can be used in coordination with SWAT and CNT, as well as responding to assist surrounding agencies in emergencies to act as additional law enforcement officers. The Taskforce also responds to other emergency response efforts such as disaster recovery.