Beyond the Badge: What goes on behind the scenes of a SWAT team?
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY, Ind. --- This week on Beyond the Badge, we’re diving into the "secrets" of SWAT. We’ve seen those special teams in action, either on the news or in the movies; we know they’re called during tense, high-stress situations but if you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes, we’ve got an inside look at the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office and who makes up its SWAT team.
“Anybody can stand on the line and just shoot,” Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team Commander Sgt. Rick Oliver said. “So, what we want to do is get the heart rate up a little bit, get the guys accustomed to moving and shooting the target because you're not always just going to stand still and shoot.”
Rick said strengthening the team all starts with training. The scenarios we show in the video above is all about core skills, not giving away tactical information.
The SWAT team is made up of operators, which where you start out on SWAT. Then, there’s two medics, a K-9 and a backup K-9.
“We're very lucky in that aspect,” he said. “A lot of SWAT teams don't have canines, let alone a backup canine. A lot of SWAT teams do not let their medics go in with them when they hit a house. We also have breachers. Those guys are trained on opening doors, basically getting us into where we need to be. Everybody gets trained on gas and everybody gets trained on distraction devices, or flashbangs as you’d call it. So, we're not a huge team. We don't focus on guys just pushing for one individual job. We cross train on all of our jobs. If I need to pull a guy and put him in a different position, then he needs to know how to do that position."
Rick said they’re a smaller team, made up of about 16 guys.
“Our SWAT team is combined with their Kosciusko County Sheriff's Department and the Nappanee PD,” he said.
To qualify for the SWAT team, you have to be a police officer for three years, or, if you come from another agency with that time under your belt, you have to go through the qualifications to join.
“Now with this being a smaller team…we are a lot faster team; we are extremely fast,” he said. “Sometimes that's not always a good thing, but we do have that on our side.”
Rick describes the team as a tight knit group.
“It's a family,” he said. “Most of the guys that are on the team know if he's with this guy, he knows what his actions are going to be through the whole mission and stuff like that. I think you'd lose some of that when you get a little bigger teams.”
“We've never been outnumbered in my 10 years on SWAT,” he explained.“I think maybe the most we've ever run into would be four or five guys. And that's just not a big issue. If you put a mission together, an operation together and you get it planned out and everybody sticks to the plan, it would take a huge amount of guys to, you know, overcome this team.”
Rick said he knows every part of what’s going on within the team.
“And that's something that we really shoot for with this team is don't only know your job, know everybody else's job. If you're not doing something, find something to do.”
Before going into a mission, there is a lot of planning that starts with the training.
“We tried to train for everything we might see. And then the new Intel on that exact house or apartment or trailer or you know, outside, whatever a tent, I don't care if it's a tent. That will all come into play and then we'll make the change.”
The team covers Kosciusko County, and with the support of Sheriff Dukes, goes just about anywhere to help in a lot of neighboring counties or smaller agencies without a SWAT team.
“Just a few years ago, our team was only getting called out once or twice a year to where now Sheriff Dukes sees the importance of it. And if it's anything high risk, he lets the SWAT team go in and handle it because that's what we trained for. All these guys have their regular jobs they do as a police officer. And this is a volunteer thing. They're not getting extra money for it. They're not getting basically anything for it. It’s because they want to come out and they want to help out and make a difference.”