Sept. 21, 2007
By George Mauzy
By end of business today, Ohio University will have a certified SWAT team for the first time in its history, an important capability for a rural campus.
Five members of the Ohio University Police Department, who also completed active shooter training in July, are undergoing formal basic SWAT education this week on campus and in various locations in the surrounding area.
SWAT, an acronym for "Special Weapons And Tactics," describes a team of law enforcement officers who are specifically trained to respond to potential life threatening situations. SWAT teams use military-grade weapons, ammunition and equipment to respond to hostage, terrorist, riot and heavily armed criminal situations.
OUPD Chief of Police Michael Martinsen recently created the SWAT team because he wants his department to be prepared for any type of emergency. Because of Athens' location, it would take between 60 to 90 minutes for the closest SWAT team to arrive on campus from Columbus.
"I had the idea of a SWAT team before Virginia Tech happened, but that incident confirmed my thoughts that we needed one," Martinsen said. "It will enhance the department's ability to respond to a crisis. Our SWAT team will be able to isolate a dangerous situation and move people away from the threat until more help arrives."
Martinsen and four members of his SWAT team are among the 22 participants in basic SWAT training and certification from the Ohio Highway Patrol Special Response Team.
"I was looking for officers who had good physical condition, good shooting skills and, most importantly, possessed a strong desire to participate in this type of work," Martinsen said. "SWAT is hard and physical and requires a lot of extra training, so I needed officers who love this type of activity."
This week's five-day training, which ends today, focuses primarily on dynamic room entry, hostage situations and short and long-range shooting techniques.
Ohio Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Paris, who is one of six Special Response Team members providing the training, said SWAT training is much different than the active shooter training provided at Ohio University in July.
"This is a totally different drill," Paris said. "SWAT is used mainly in barricade or hostage situations and involves a team approach to handling a dangerous situation. It promotes teamwork and involves more than one or two officers handling the situation."
Other participants in the training include four active U.S. Marines who train Marine reserves for a living, and law enforcement personnel from the City of Logan Police Department and the sheriff's departments in Athens, Logan and Hocking counties.
The start-up cost of the SWAT team is less than $50,000, and Martinsen said he funded it primarily with one-time money from last year's budget. The costs included training and the purchase of special equipment, such as Kevlar helmets, long-range weapons, equipment storage lockers and ammunition.
"Some people have asked about the costs of starting a SWAT team and training officers in hostage negotiations, but I would hate to be the one who had to tell the parents of a student that we didn't think their child's life was worth the extra money," Martinsen said.