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‘Prepare for the worst’ Lincoln County SWAT team drills in Denver

Swat Team

Lincoln County’s SWAT team understands that “if you want peace, prepare for the worst.” It’s a phrase they’ve come to train by, they said.

On Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office held a training for their negotiators, command staff and tactical team at Denver Baptist Church’s R-Anell facility. The training was a way for the team members to remain equipped for whatever future high-risk crime scenarios come their way.

Authorities hoped to showcase the officers’ cohesiveness by combining all three Sheriff’s Office divisions in the day’s various training scenarios. In addition, it was the first time that all three divisions have united for a training session.

So far this year, the SWAT team has responded to nine separate incidents, a majority of which occurred within Lincoln County.

However, a few incidents required local SWAT officers to assist Catawba County authorities in serving “high-risk” search warrants also known as “no-knocks,” because such warrants do not require officers to knock prior to breaking down a suspect’s front door.

SWAT units are typically not needed for serving everyday drug warrants, but are highly necessary for apprehending suspects who have taken hostages, have significantly violent criminal backgrounds or are known to possess weapons or firearms within their residence, authorities noted.

While deputies think that narcotics officers and members of the Sheriff’s Drug Interdiction and Criminal Enforcement (DICE) team could handle a similar arrest, they recognize that SWAT members are more adequately trained for high-risk situations. More importantly, the SWAT team offers a more intimidating presence that often results in little resistance from suspects.

The Sheriff’s Office currently boasts 17 SWAT team members, 15 of whom are deputies and two of whom are employed with Lincoln County Emergency Medical Services. The team typically trains between 12 and 16 hours each month.

However, because the team is only part-time, all of the officers have additional jobs and don’t receive extra pay, authorities said. They often request aid when necessary from full-time agencies in surrounding counties where they have access to a wider range of tactical equipment.

Lt. Jason Reid, head of SWAT, DICE and the narcotics unit, pointed out the importance of camaraderie in the field.

“It’s not what kind of shape you’re in or how you shoot,” he said, “but what kind of team player you are. We want you to give 100 percent.”

Reid served as both an assistant team leader and team leader in Catawba and Iredell counties prior to joining the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office command staff in December, the same month Sheriff David Carpenter and the new administration took office.

In Wednesday’s training scenario, SWAT members cautiously entered the training facility as though it were an office where an employee had gone “crazy,” barricading himself inside a room on the building’s backside.

N.C. Lottery Investigator Baxter Rowe served as the scenario’s “bad guy.” Rowe previously worked with Reid and has ample tactical experience.

Upon entering the building, one or two SWAT members shouted, “Sheriff’s Office — search warrant,” and proceeded to move in several single-file lines throughout the facility, checking all rooms for the suspect.

After locating the “bad guy” in the back of the building, they quickly commanded him to “get on the ground.”

In a similar real-life situation, negotiators and “observers” would also work the incident. Authorities pointed out that they utilize at least four different kinds of negotiators including one apiece to talk to the suspect, to coach the person speaking to the suspect, to talk to neighbors and/or hostages and to take notes. Oftentimes, the note-taker catches a detail or two that his fellow negotiator misses when conversing with a suspect.

The SWAT team was most recently involved in the arrest of more than 15 county residents who were indicted on nearly 100 drug-related charges in July.

The effort, known as Operation Rolling 50, has been called the most significant drug round-up in Lincoln County history, and was aided by agencies in Gaston, Iredell and Catawba Counties.

Currently, more than 40 arrests have been made in the effort, and only a handful of suspects remain at-large according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities hoped that their recent efforts to catch criminals hasn’t been perceived as their way of communicating violent trends across the county.

Rather, authorities seek to convey the active nature of the county SWAT team and other Sheriff’s Office divisions and let criminals know that they’re doing all they can to snuff them out.

— Jenna-Ley Harrison, staff writer

Image courtesy of Seth Mabry

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