St. Charles City Police Restart SWAT Team
City will pay $10,000 in upfront costs to its own special weapons and tactics team.
The move will cost the city at least $10,000 in start-up costs and cost more than $6,000 annually.
The St. Charles Police Department had been part of the St. Charles County Regional SWAT team since 2004. The county SWAT also includes officers from the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department and the St. Peters, O'Fallon, Lake Saint Louis and Wentzville police departments. The SWAT's duties include serving search warrants in potentially violent situations, arresting heavily-armed suspects and responding to stand-offs.
St. Charles City had its own SWAT from 1980 until 2004, when former Police Chief Tim Swope ended the program, said St. Charles City Police Lt. Mike Akers.
Current St. Charles City Police Chief Dennis Corley was a member of St. Charles City's original tactical team and cited its success as a reason to restart the program.
"For over 20 years the agency supported a tactical operations team in various forms and it was recognized as a leader in the arena," Corley told St. Charles Patch via email.
Corley also said Mayor Patti York, the St. Charles City Council and Director of Administration Michael Spurgeon, supported the reinstatement.
The St. Charles City SWAT will be called the Special Response Team, or SRT, Akers said, adding he would like to have it up and running by the beginning of 2011. While there is some equipment left over from the old team, SRT will need new equipment, which could cost between $10,000 to $12,000. Annual costs to run the unit will likely increase once the team is functioning, Akers said.
According the 2003 budget provided by the City of St. Charles, maintaining the original SRT cost between $6,000 to $7,000 a year. By comparison, the city paid less than $500 to use the countywide SWAT team in 2009. Corley said there was a cost trade-off, since each member of the regional SWAT had to purchase specific rifles, side-arms, and ammunition that were not standard issue for St. Charles City police, Corley said. The city also had to pay overtime when St. Charles City officers had to respond to incidents outside of the city.
The St. Charles City law enforcement budget decreased by more than $80,500 this year. Still, Corley said no other services were cut in order to fund the returning SRT. York confirmed said no other programs suffered funding decreases in order to pay for them, explaining the city is saving by cutting travel expenses and benefiting from lower gas prices.
York said there were many reasons to reinstate SRT, including the opportunity for young officers to receive specialty tactical training and the fact that many of the calls requiring a SWAT were originating in St. Charles County, not in the city. York wanted the St. Charles Police Department to be in charge of tactical needs within the city.
"I think there is an issue of control," she said.
Akers, a lieutenant with the St. Charles City Police Department, said about 40 percent of calls coming into the countywide SWAT have been from the city.
St. Peters Police Chief Thomas A. Bishop, who leads the countywide SWAT, said the team responded to 16 calls between July 13 and October 11 of this year. Of those calls:
- nine came from the City of St. Charles
- one was in O'Fallon
- one was in Wentzville
- three were from unincorporated St. Charles County
- one was from Lake Saint Louis and one was a Lincoln County assist
The five members of St. Charles City police force on the county SWAT have already pulled out.
"The remaining agencies are very happy with the services these guys (county-wide SWAT) are providing," Bishop said.
"Too many SWAT teams"
In the past, both St. Charles City and St. Peters had their own SWAT. The decision to create a team that would serve the whole county came in Jan. 2005.
"There were too many SWAT teams and not enough work," Bishop said.
Bishop said the current situation "is what it is," and the countywide SWAT wishes the City of St. Charles SRT program the best.
St. Charles City would still like to collaborate with countywide SWAT, Akers said.
"I'd like to think in the future we will be training with them," Akers said.
St. Louis City and St. Louis County both have their own full time tactical units. According to Erica S. Van Ross, Director of Public Information for the Metropolitan Police Department of the City of St. Louis, its tactical unit has been deployed 182 times this year.
Sgt. John Wheeler of the St. Louis County Police Department said his unit responds to at least 160 high risk search warrants and deals with about 15 barricaded subjects per year.
Corley told St. Charles Patch that reinstating the SRT was appropriate for current demands on law enforcement and meet the needs of the community.
"There's really not a cost factor when it comes to saving lives," York said.