The Specialized Response Division of the Tucson Police Department is commanded by Captain JT Turner who is tasked with providing and coordinating the department’s response to emergencies, natural disasters, and critical incidents in terms of planning and tactical deployment of personnel and equipment. The division is the principal advisor to the Chief of Police regarding all critical incident response protocols.
The division is commanded by a captain selected by the Chief of Police. The captain has a management staff consisting of three commanders at the rank of lieutenant as assigned by the Chief of Police. The division consists of the Special Operations Section, Tactical Support Section and the Emergency Management Section. These sections and their tenant units are described below:
Special Operations Section
The Special Operations Section is commanded by Lieutenant Frank Hand and is composed of the Special Weapons and Tactics Team, Explosives and Hazardoud Devices Detail (Bomb Squad), and the Field Response Units. The mission of the Special Operations Section is to save lives by providing the department with the capability to mitigate high-risk or armed resistance type incidents (SWAT) and the capability to mitigate explosive and other similar hazardous device incidents (EHDD). It is also the responsibility of the section to ensure all of the division’s specialized vehicles are maintained and ready for deployment 24 hours a day, seven days a week (SVU). The section will accomplish this through employment of special tactics by personnel with training and equipment not available to all members of the department.
Special Weapons and Tactics Team
The Tucson Police Department formed the Special Weapons and Tactics Team in 1974 to try and counter an ever-increasing propensity for violence in our community, as in other communities throughout the country. The team in those days was comprised of a few volunteers with no budget and little in the way of special weapons and training by today's standards.
The mission of the S.W.A.T. Team is to provide the department with the capability to safely resolve high-risk situations. Some examples of these types of situations are:
- Hostage situations
- Barricaded suspects
- Suicidal subjects
- High risk search warrants/raids
- High risk arrests
- VIP protection details
- Counter sniper
- Other situations where the likelihood of armed resistance appears great
The S.W.A.T. Team is operationally deployed on average 200 times every year; and those calls for assistance include other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The team consists of one lieutenant, five sergeants, and 40 officers. Three of the officers and one sergeant are full time and they make up the S.W.A.T. Squad. This squad is responsible for vehicles, equipment, weapons maintenance, setting up training, and various other assignments. The rest of the team members all have other full time jobs within the police department.
The S.W.A.T. Team trains twice monthly with additional training available as needed. Every officer has a specialty assignment on the team that they specifically train for; however, everyone also receives cross training in the other specialties. Some of the specialties include:
- Explosive Breaching
- Chemical and Less-lethal Munitions
- Armored Safety Vehicle Operators
- Tactical Medics
- Tactical Robot Operators
- Entry Specialists
If you find yourself in an area where a S.W.A.T. Team is deployed it is very important that you follow some simple rules.
- Do not try to drive or walk into the area
- Stay indoors, stay away from the windows, and lock your doors
- If you are told to evacuate, follow instructions and comply with the evacuation (Remember: If you are told to evacuate, it is for your safety)
It is a natural curiosity to try to watch what is going on, but if you can see the action, you are too close and you are in danger.
The Tucson Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics Team is committed to serving our community and carrying out our mission with dedication and professionalism to achieve our goal of saving lives.
The Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team has a select group of highly trained officers who are called Snipers. A deployed Sniper Team is the eyes of the S.W.A.T. Team.
The primary responsibilities of a Sniper Team are to protect the public and other S.W.A.T. Team members, and to gather details and information from its vantage point.
The S.W.A.T. Snipers train regularly in distances ranging from 0 to 1,000 yards. In order to become a Sniper, an officer must first be an experienced S.W.A.T. Team member, then go through a grueling testing process that evaluates the officer's abilities, mindset, and overall mental and physical capabilities to perform this demanding job.
The Tucson Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics Team has a very active and progressive Explosive Breaching Program. Explosive Breaching has really evolved over the years into a science. Dependent on the target to be breached, a small amount of explosives will be used in a very concise and precise manner to achieve our objective. The manner in which we use this tool is very safe, not only for the S.W.A.T. officers, but also for the occupants. Speed, surprise, and disorientation of the occupants is greatly increased if we utilize an explosive breaching option, and that makes for a safer operation for all.
The S.W.A.T. Team's Explosive Breachers are made up of highly trained Bomb Technicians and veteran S.W.A.T. officers who have attended specialized schools and training to be certified as Breachers. Extensive training, and research and development are continuous with our program, and members have done hundreds of training and operational explosive breaches.
Our goal is to provide our team with a safe, high-speed, and dynamic form of breaching that will help to ensure a safe ending of a hostile situation.
Chemical and Less-lethal Munitions
The Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team has a wide variety of chemical munitions (tear gas) and less-lethal capabilities. A select group of S.W.A.T. officers are specifically trained for deploying these tools; they train and are certified on a regular basis.
S.W.A.T. Team members deploy chemical munitions numerous times every year to assist in safely ending standoff type situations. Various types of chemical munitions can be used, depending upon the circumstances. Deployment options range from hand deployment to various long-distance, remote deployment techniques.
Less-lethal deployment is using projectiles (beanbags, foam, rubber, etc.) that are designed to incapacitate a suspect, but not to kill the individual. Our S.W.A.T. Team has some success stories where less-lethal deployment has saved individuals’ lives, where only a few years ago our only option would have been deadly force. Less-lethal deployment has proven itself as a valuable tool. However, we cannot use this tool in all situations and sometimes when used we do not achieve the desired result.
In 1997, the Tucson Police Department took possession of a Remotec, Andros 6A robot. Bomb Squad officers, who are also veteran S.W.A.T. Team members, set out to develop a tactical robot deployment plan. Extensive training, and research and development were undertaken to come up with techniques, attachments, and tools to assist in S.W.A.T. operations. We worked closely with the company engineers in developing some of these tools. It quickly became apparent how versatile and beneficial the robot deployment program was going to be for the S.W.A.T. Team:
- Less-lethal deployment (12 gauge beanbag, Sage, and Grab Net)
- Chemical munitions deployment
- Vehicle disablement
- Door and window breaching
- Deployment of hostage negotiator phone
- Building search
- Surveillance platform
- Face-to-face (robot) negotiations
The Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team has utilized the robot on numerous operations with great success; and the team is committed to enhancing and improving the robot deployment program.
Other specialist categories for the Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team include Entry Specialists. These officers train for the very demanding function of entering a location, rescuing victims, and securing suspects. Many times this has to be done under very adverse and dangerous conditions.
S.W.A.T. situations that may require an entry:
- Hostage rescue
- High-risk arrest
- Barricaded suspect
- Suicidal subject rescue
- High-risk warrant service
The S.W.A.T. Team Medics provide first-line medical care for any injuries during S.W.A.T. operations. They protect the lives of fellow team members, civilians, and suspects. Our S.W.A.T. medics operatie under the supervison of a medical director, who is a local trauma surgeon.
The Tactical Medics can and will provide the following services to the Team and citizens when needed:
- Tactical medical plan to incident command
- Lead medic at the command post to help with safety issues
- First line medical treatment to team members in the hot zone
- Team member medical evaluation at the command post
- Available to accompany any injured team member, civilian or suspect to the hospital
- A medical evaluation resource to incident command
- Keeping and maintaining medical supplies
- Training fellow team members on emergency first aid
- Assisting the team and the negotiators with the delivery of medicine to suspects and victims in a hot zone
- Assist the team in any other way needed
It has been proven that injured parties stand a much greater chance of survival if they are given immediate medical care. Our Tactical Medics can provide this immediate care, even in a hot zone.
Our Tactical Medics have gone through extensive training and schools to reach their high level of proficiency. The Tactical Medics have a close working relationship with the Tucson Fire Department Paramedics and regularly train and ride with them to help enhance their life saving skills.
Our S.W.A.T. Team Tactical Medics are dedicated and committed to rendering aid and saving lives even under the most adverse and dangerous conditions.
The Tucson Police Department Explosive and Hazardous Devices Detail (EHDD) was established in 1970 to combat the drastic increase of radical and terrorist bombings in the United States. Out of necessity and the ever-increasing calls for service, the Bomb Squad has changed and evolved over the years.
The goal of EHDD is the preservation of lives and property for the citizens of Tucson and the State of Arizona. The detail has the responsibility of handling and storing explosives, and the rendering safe or disposing of found or recovered explosives and devices. The detail also conducts post-blast investigations, and upon request, the detail will assist county, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. Members of our unit responded and assisted with the post-blast investigation at both the Oklahoma City Federal Building and the World Trade Center bombings.
EHDD is currently made up of three full-time bomb technicians and a supervisor (Sergeant) who is also a certified bomb technician. It has all the necessary, modern, and up-to-date safety and protective equipment and tools to perform our duties. In 1997 our unit also purchased an Andros 6A robot with all the necessary tools and attachments. It has proven to be a very valuable asset for not only the Bomb Squad but also for the S.W.A.T. Team.
Since the tragedy of 9/11 and the increased awareness of terrorism in this country, police have changed tactics and looked for various ways to assist in combating terrorists. The explosive detection dog is one of these tools. These dogs are taught to search areas, buildings and vehicles for the presence of many explosive odors. Some of these odors include black powder, dynamite and C-4. The dogs are able to locate many other explosives and chemicals used to manufacture explosive devices. Because the dogs are searching for things that blow up, each explosive dog is a passive alert dog. The Explosives and Hazardous Devices Unit currently deploys one explosives detection dog, a black lab named "JR."
The Explosives and Hazardous Devices Detail responds to over 150 calls for service per year. All of our Bomb Technicians attended and graduated the U.S. Army and F.B.I. Hazardous Devices School at the Redstone Arsenal. The technicians also attend advanced training schools and regular in-service training.
The Tucson Police Department's Explosives and Hazardous Devices Detail will continue to provide the community with trained personnel and equipment to safely handle and mitigate potential hazardous situations for our community and state.
The Tucson Police Department has an ongoing commitment to working with our schools by educating our children on safety.
The Tucson Police Department Hostage/Crisis Team seeks to further the mission of the Tucson Police Department by embracing the values of integrity, teamwork, and excellence. The Hostage/Crisis Team is utilized on an "as-needed" basis. The team responds to specific situations where human life is in danger, providing the department with personnel trained and equipped for the exclusive purpose of de-escalating and resolving crisis incidents without force. By intervening at this critical time we prevent and minimize loss of life and risk of injury to police personnel, citizens, and persons in crisis.
The Tucson Police Hostage/Crisis Team consists of one lieutenant, five sergeants, and 25 officers. A responding team works in concert with the Special Weapons And Tactics (S.W.A.T.) Unit to successfully minimize a conflict. Hostage/Crisis stages at a designated command post consisting of a specially-designed van containing equipment necessary to resolve the situation.
Questions or comments regarding the Hostage/Crisis Team may be directed to Lieutenant Dan Lewis at 520-837-7792.
Field Response Unit
Commonly referred to as the Force Squads, these two units are staffed with six officers and one sergeant who are members of the Special Weapons and Tactics Team. They are tasked with responding as a unit to assist the various geographical patrol divisions in resolving calls for service from the community. They can be moved tactically throughout the city to address the challenges associated with abnormal spikes in quantity of calls waiting for dispatch within specific areas. They are also utilized as the first responders to critical incidents such as active shooters, hostage/barricade situations and other incidents requiring a specialized tactical response or spacialized equipment.
Tactical Support Section
This section is commanded by Lieutenant Lee McNitt and two sergeants as authorized by the annual budget and assigned by the Chief of Police. This Section is comprised of the Air Support Unit and the Service Dog Units and is tasked with providing tactical support and resources to field patrol officers.
Air Support Unit
Air Support is staffed by seven officer-pilots, two mechanics, and a supervisor/pilot, who operate three Bell JetRanger turbine-powered helicopters. The aircraft fly about 3,300 hours each year and are maintained to the highest possible standards by the highly experienced mechanics. Since the unit was established in 1972, it has earned an excellent safety record through rigorous initial and recurrent training programs. All Air Support pilots are commercial-rated pilots and crosstrained in fixed wing operations.
Police helicopters are a "force multiplier." The aerial view gives the helicopter crew 15 times the surveillance capacity of a ground unit. That capability, combined with the speed at which the helicopter can get a flight crew to a crime scene (usually less than 2 minutes), provides an advantage that often assures an arrest. The Tucson Police Department Air Support Unit responds to an average of 12,000 calls every year and participated in over 700 arrests last year.
In addition to crimes in progress, the TPD helicopter (known as AIR-1) supports officers on the ground by searching for missing or lost persons, checking roofs of businesses, lighting collision and other incident scenes, and providing an airborne command and control center. The helicopter is equipped with night vision equipment, Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), and a 30 million-candlepower night searchlight. The latest addition is a video downlink system for command and control situations or natural disasters.
Service Dog Unit
The Tucson Police Department Service Dog unit consists of nine police officers (dog handlers) and one supervisor. All the dogs in the unit are dual-purpose German Shepard males. The K-9 teams all work on the streets of Tucson in a support role for uniformed patrol officers. The teams conduct area and building searches for hidden criminals. They also search for lost people and provide officer protection in potentially violent encounters. The teams work an evening shift and there are teams on the streets every night. On the radio, each K-9 team is identified by a designator, “SAM” unit. (S1 through S11) Each team is also available for 24 hour callout if a situation arises when there are no dog teams on duty. Each handler takes his partner home along with their assigned car. The dogs are sociable and enjoy many things that a pet dog would. All dogs are certified for patrol work and their other specialty through the National Police Canine Association (NPCA) and each officer in the unit is a proud member of ALECA (Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association).
The unit also provides more specialized support in the areas of narcotic or explosive detection. Currently, there are three teams that work in narcotic detection. The narcotic dog teams are able to search buildings or vehicles in an effort to locate any illegal drug that may be hidden. They do this service in support of uniform patrol, undercover agents, and various narcotic task forces. Narcotic dogs can be passive alert dogs or aggressive alert dogs. A passive alert dog will sit at the location he finds a substance while aggressive alert dogs will bite, scratch and bark at the area. Detection work is similar to a game for the dog as he believes he is actually searching for his reward (toy, praise) instead of actually finding drugs. Through training the dogs associate the odor of narcotics with a reward.
Emergency Management Section
This section is commanded by Lieutenant Mike Hammarstrom and is staffed with two budgeted and authorized sergeants as assigned by the Chief of Police. This section is focused on Disaster and Emergency Planning, critical infrastructure security, threat and vulberability assessments and assists as required for Special Event Planning. The personnel of the Emergency Management Section are also part of the Tucson Office of Emergency Management and the Tucson Urban Area Security Initiative.