The Salt River Police Department (SRPD) graduated five Police Officers from the Mesa Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) School on February 25. These five SRPD Police Officers will join more than 20 other SRPD Police Officers who are currently certified SWAT Team Members of our SRPD Special Operations Unit (SOU).
The SRPD SOU Team is a specially trained Unit of SRPD Police Officers that the Police Department utilizes for exceptional instances when other than standard Police procedures, tactics and weapons are required or during unusual occurrences such as an active shooter, barricaded subject armed with firearms, hostage rescue, etc. The SRPD SOU Team has several specialty positions including negotiators. The ultimate goal of the SRPD SOU Team is for safe resolutions to critical and dangerous incidents and to reduce the risks to the Community, all persons involved and Police Officers by utilizing specialty trained Police Officers who are outfitted with the most advanced equipment, tools and technology.
The SWAT Team School Graduation was held on February 25, 2016 at the Mesa Police Department (MPD) Firearms Range. The SWAT Team School meets the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) best practices. Mesa PD Chief John Meza was the keynote speaker. The SWAT Team School Class graduated 50 Police Officers from many Arizona Police Departments including the Mesa PD, Tempe PD, Phoenix PD, Flagstaff PD, Maricopa PD, Yuma PD and SRPD. SRPD Off. Zack Rollings was selected by his class as top SWAT team member and was recognized at the SWAT Team School Graduation. Each graduating SWAT officer received a graduation certificate given by Mesa PD Chief John Meza and SRPD Assistant Chief Karl Auerbach. After the graduation, SRPD Cmdr. Gann provided each SRPD SOU Officer their SRPD SOU shoulder patch and SRPD Assistant Chief Auerbach provided them their SRPD SOU tactical pin.
“These officers went through a thorough physical, psychological and tactical testing process just to be considered eligible to attend the SWAT school. The 80-hour SWAT Team school is designed to challenge officers at the highest levels so that only the best skilled officers can serve on our team. However, the training does not stop there. All members must continue with at least 10 hours of advanced tactical training a month, in addition to a 40-hour annual training requirement,” said Commander Jonathan Gann, SOU Commander.
Lt. Anthony Sandoval, SOU Team Leader explained what it took to create their own Special Operations Unit.
“A lot of research was conducted to seek out what exactly it would take to develop and maintain our own SOU. After the research was completed, we applied for outside funding to minimize the costs to the Community. Fortunately the Salt River Police Department was awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to help purchase new vehicles, specialized tactical equipment and advanced tactical officer training.” Lt. Anthony Sandoval, SOU Team Leader.
The SRPD SOU Team was formed in 1996 by Assistant Chief Karl Auerbach, initial training then was provided by either the AZDPS SWAT or FBI SWAT. The original SRPD SOU Team consisted of eight members and by 1999 increased to 13 members plus a SRPD K9 Handler and Police K9 and a tactical paramedic (SRFD Bill Kuamoo), some of the original SRPD SOU Team Members are still here at SRPD today including James Sutphen, Steve Larson, Alfredo Castro, Oscar Esparza and Karl Auerbach.