Law enforcement agencies in northern Wood County are planning the formation of a regional Special Weapons and Tactics team.
A team of 12 to 14 officers from police departments in Lake and Perrysburg townships, the cities of Northwood and Rossford, the Village of Walbridge, and Owens Community College would be organized, according to planners who say a regional approach to a SWAT would significantly improve response times over the current format that draws on equipment and personnel based at the Wood County Sheriff’s Department in Bowling Green.
Sgt. Scott Sims, of the Lake Township Police Department, and officers from Perrysburg Township presented the idea to the Perrysburg Township board of trustees earlier this month, noting the population is denser in the northern part of the county.
Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer said the proposal will be presented to Lake Township trustees at their first meeting in February.
He said the SWAT team will outfit a de-commissioned ambulance being donated by the Perrysburg Township Fire Department with its equipment.
“One of the problems we had with the sheriff’s office – and the Special Response Team down there is fine, they’re good people – is the response time,” Chief Hummer said. “We asked the sheriff to bring one of the three SRT vehicles and base it up north here at any location, Rossford or Perrysburg Township. It didn’t matter.
“We were trying to cut down on what was an hour or more response time. Team members had to go down and get a vehicle and then come back. Generally, they’re mobilizing from home because you never know when something is going to happen. They drive to Bowling Green, wait for a couple of more people, and then drive back up here.”
With more than half of the county’s population residing north of State Route 582, the logistics favor a team that is more localized, he said.
Area police departments would have benefited from a local SRT during a fatal shooting incident five years ago at a Perrysburg Township trucking firm, according to the chief.
“We ended up searching that building without the benefit of any equipment other than our bullet-proof vests,” he said “Anytime you can make a quicker response your success rate is going to be higher. And this isn’t just going to be used for barricaded gun men. We’re also going to be doing tactical patrols. If, for example, they’re having a problem in Northwood with B and E’s at night we can mobilize this team and draw on each others’ strengths and personnel to assist in one jurisdiction without killing ourselves with overtime.”
Much of the team’s training will be conducted at a special facility at Owens College, which will also be donating labor and materials along with the Whiteford Kenworth dealership in Perrysburg to paint the donated ambulance.
Notices of the SWAT’s formation are being posted at the member departments to find interested officers.
Successful applicants will have to pass a physical agility test and undergo training in tactical weaponry. They will also have to go before an interview board.
Walbridge Police Chief Ken Frost said he plans to present the proposal to Mayor Dan Wilczynski and village council’s safety committee.
“I am most definitely in favor of this and will attempt to fund this out of my current budget if approved. The regional approach to law enforcement is an advantage to everyone. By all agencies taking this approach it allows for pooling of resources as opposed to each individual agency attempting to fund a project of this nature on its own. SWAT is an important team to have. If something were to go drastically wrong, we would have a well-trained team in place to manage the incident no matter whose jurisdiction the incident may fall under. Being the `newest’ chief in this area, I can attest that the cooperation between departments on every level, both operational and administrative, is second to none,” he said.
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said a county-based team has some advantages.
“We currently have the responding Special Response Team members go directly to the scene in an emergency. They carry all their gear in their vehicles. We have personnel drive up whatever vehicle(s) with heavy equipment that may be needed to the scene. This has worked very well for many years. In my over seven years as sheriff I have not had a single complaint about the team, let alone response times,” he said.
He said Bowling Green is centrally located in the county.
“The current county-wide team is second to none and the members have trained other teams from around the state. I am very proud of each and every one of the members. Certainly the various police departments are welcome to do what they wish with their dollars. We are very cost effective when we do it county wide. A large advantage of the county team is jurisdiction throughout the county and I take on all the liability,” the sheriff said.
Four member departments of the proposed SWAT team are also collaborating on a study to combine their dispatching service for emergency calls.
Currently, Rossford and Walbridge contract with Lake Township for 24-hour 9-1-1 dispatch service. The call center is located at a former Ohio Highway Patrol post on Lemoyne Road the township purchased a few years ago.
Northwood handles its own emergency dispatching service at a facility in the police department on Wales Road.
For more than a year, representatives of the communities have been meeting to try to determine if dispatching service for all four could be efficiently combined and improved.
One option being considered is to extend the software used by Northwood police and manufactured by Alert Public Safety Solutions, Inc. for the proposed regional format.
The software supports the department’s computer aided dispatch system, which enables police officers to log onto a data base of arrest records and related reports from their vehicles.
A meeting of the entities to discuss applying for a grant from the state’s Local Government Innovation Fund to help pay for a regional CAD system was scheduled for this past Friday.