The Southwest Washington Regional SWAT team was formed in 1998 when the tactical teams of the Vancouver Police Department and the Clark County Sheriffs Office combined. Assignments within the new team were based upon experience and ability, without regard for agency of employment. A regional agreement was drafted to include participation of the remaining municipal law enforcement agencies within Clark County, Washington. The current 24 member team consists of members from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Vancouver Police Department, and The Battle Ground Police Department. Candidates must to pass physical, shooting, practical, oral and background evaluations to be appointed to the team. Once on the team, members must pass a physical test twice a year and qualify with 90% shooting accuracy four times a year.
The mission of the Southwest Washington Regional SWAT Team is to support area law enforcement agencies with a tactical response to critical incidents and high risk operations. These types of incidents include hostage situations, barricaded suspects, high-risk apprehension, sniper situations, high-risk warrant service, or any other situation that requires the use of specialized equipment and team tactics. The SWAT team trains approximately 250 to 300 hours annually. Training consists of firearms qualifications, room clearing and search techniques, team movement, unarmed defensive tactics, use of chemical and less lethal munitions, land navigation, ship boarding and clearing, hostage rescue, explosive and mechanical breaching, rappel, rapid deployment and quick reaction drills. In order to be prepared for virtually any type of incident that may arise the team trains in all types of environments ranging from residential and commercial structures to vehicles such as cars, buses, and waterborne vessels.
The Southwest Regional SWAT Team serves a population of about 425,000 citizens and 7 law enforcement agencies. They also support SWAT teams in Cowlitz County, Skamania County and is the backup team for East Metro SWAT in the Portland, Or. Metropolitan area. The team responded to 52 high risk missions in 2007. They are regularly used to train both local law enforcement agencies and agencies throughout the state in advanced tactics such as rapid deployment, crisis management and tactical response. The unit is well respected and recognized as excellent resource to provide advanced training to patrol officers.
There are two Commanders assigned to the SWAT team, one from the Vancouver Police Department, and one from the Clark County Sheriffs Office. They share command duties of the team. There is one sergeant assigned as full-time team leader from the Vancouver Police Department, which is the host agency. The assistant team leader is assigned from the Clark County Sheriffs Office. Additionally there is one sergeant assigned as the sniper team leader. There are two squad leaders for the blue and grey squads, which all members are divided between. Members fill a variety of assignments including entry team, police sniper, perimeter and breaching teams and chemical agent specialists. Five specially trained police officers are assigned as Tactical Emergency Medical Support “medics” provide medical support during high-risk missions. In addition, there at two SWAT K-9 teams assigned to the team and are specially trained to operate in high risk environments such as chemical, close-quarter battle, slow and deliberate entry and high risk apprehensions. Two Metropolitan Explosive Disposal Unit team members, one from Vancouver Police and the other from Clark County S.O. are also assigned to the team and used for explosive breaching, robot operation, lighting and other support functions.
A ten-member Hostage Negotiation Team supports SWAT on all high risk missions. This team has one team leader, one assistant team leader and eight negotiators. They respond on all SWAT missions and provide intelligence gathering, documentation and negotiation services.
SWAT has four armored vehicles including a Lenco “Bearcat,” two GMC “Peacekeepers” and a military surplus V150 Armored Personnel Carrier to provide protection for the team during high risk incidents. Additionally they have a large box van for transporting gear, a step-van outfitted to support the Hostage Negotiation Team, a trailer with emergency lighting, generators and a robot. The Tactical Medical Unit has a fully functional ambulance to support their services. Many of the SWAT officers have take-home police vehicles to expedite their response to situations through the service area. The team also uses the Metropolitan Air Support Team for aerial reconnaissance, command and control and other mission needs. They are outfitted with FLIR and microwave video downlink for remote viewing of missions.
SWAT is a collateral duty team which means each member except the team leader has a primary duty within their respective agencies, such as patrol, detectives, traffic, etc. When the need for SWAT to respond to a situation arises, each team member transitions from their primary duty to their SWAT role. Team members are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members of this unit are extremely dedicated and are continually striving to provide the highest level of service for the residence of our community.