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The current SWAT Team began in 1990 as the Special Emergency Response Team, to meet the demand for a response to the ever-increasing nationwide problem of violent barricaded suspect/hostage incidents, and high-risk search warrants. The average patrol officer is not equipped to deal with such unusually dangerous situations. Larger cities have had SWAT teams since the early 1970's, in response to violent incidents.
Prior to 1990, Medford had inadequate resources to deal with incidents of such magnitude. Characteristically, the Patrol Division, with its limited resources, training and manpower would handle those situations, occasionally with help from nearby other agencies.
As suspects' weapons became more sophisticated, and risky situations were on the rise, the need for a specially trained and equipped unit to deal with the problem became readily apparent.
Officers were carefully selected for the team. Equipment from other similar teams in the nation was surveyed and Medford SERT was formed. The name was changed to SWAT (Special Weapons & Tactics Team) in 1998, Medford officers received training from similar teams with Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Portland Police Bureau, Oregon State Police, and numerous other agencies.
As the Medford SWAT Team is a part-time team, members come from many divisions within the department. As a result of their involvement in SWAT activities, officers are much more competent at their regular duties. Because SWAT tactics minimize risk, many of these techniques are adapted to regular patrol procedures. Medford officers are much more competent, confident and safer in their daily duties.
Our SWAT team responds or is involved in one to two incidents per month on average. When these incidents occur, SWAT members that are not on duty are paged back to work. There are SWAT members spread throughout the patrol deployment, so initial responders may have SWAT members on the scene.
Medford PD as a whole has benefited from SWAT training, as specialized knowledge from SWAT officers gets passed on to others, making other officers in the department safer in their jobs as well. SWAT members are frequently called upon to provide department-wide training in firearms, building searches, and other related subjects.
SWAT's current responsibilities include: high risk search warrants, barricaded suspects, hostage incidents, dignitary protection, crowd and riot control and active shooter incidents. Recently, Medford's SWAT team conducted training at local high schools, in response to violence in schools, nationwide. They have also conducted informational classes for the Citizen's Academy, and the Medford Chamber.
The Medford SWAT team consists of sixteen police personnel, and one additional safety officer. DC Brett Johnson is the team commander, with Sgt. Ben Lytle and Sgt. Josh Reimer as team leaders. We have added one Ashland Police Officer to give it more regional impact. Ashland P.D. has been very supportive of this addition, and provides them with the availability of SWAT resource with limited cost.
Medford SWAT will continue to look for ways to improve our ability to provide the best in "special weapons and tactics." Our ultimate goal is to keep our communities safe.
Like the military, SWAT trains for the worst, hoping it never comes. Medford SWAT trains a minimum of one day a month. Twice yearly, Medford's SWAT Team attends 40 hour advanced schools. Medford PD constantly seeks additional training opportunities to enhance their skills. Equipment is being continually upgraded to find the most modern and reliable equipment to ensure the highest degree of safety to the officers and the public.
Medford PD SWAT officers are required to qualify with their issued weapons several times a year, much more stringent than the state standards. Literally, thousands of rounds of ammunition are expended annually on the range in training with the SWAT Team's "tools of the trade," to maintain a high level of competence.
Fortunately, the frequency of call-outs for SWAT has decreased, but the team is at an unprecedented level of readiness.
Medford SWAT is committed to competency, courtesy, integrity and success in the fulfillment of its mission.
For more information, contact: Lt. Kerry Curtis, 541-774-2269