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South Williamsport, PA
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Williamsport’s Special Response Team An Effective Element In Area Law Enforcement’s Toolbox

For 30 years, the Williamsport Police Department/Lycoming County Special Response Team (SRT) has been aiding area law enforcement agencies, including themselves, in various unusual, challenging, dangerous, and serious incidents. They have been a vital part of area law enforcement’s flexibility to deal with these types of incidents and situations. According to Williamsport Police Officer Jeremy

For 30 years, the Williamsport Police Department/Lycoming County Special Response Team (SRT) has been aiding area law enforcement agencies, including themselves, in various unusual, challenging, dangerous, and serious incidents. They have been a vital part of area law enforcement’s flexibility to deal with these types of incidents and situations.

According to Williamsport Police Officer Jeremy Brown, Team Leader of the Special Response Team, the team was organized in 1990 with a complement of seven officers. It has evolved into a unit that consists of personnel from throughout Lycoming County. Team members include representatives from the Lycoming County District Attorney’s Office, the Lycoming County Sheriff’s Office, Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department., South Williamsport Police Department, Williamsport Bureau of Police, medical professionals from UPMC, and the Williamsport Fire Department.

The team now consists of 12 operators and two snipers, and support from the Lycoming County Negotiations Team. SRT is part of the North Central Taskforce and is the response team for a terrorist incident within nine counties in Pennsylvania.

SRT has responded and successfully resolved dozens of high-risk incidents within Lycoming County, including barricaded gunmen, high-risk warrant executions, dignitary protection — which includes Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and most recently, Donald Trump. They have also been involved in hostage rescue, special events, and asset protection.

SRT has been called to assist other agencies not only in Lycoming County, but Clinton County, Columbia County, and Montour County. SRT regularly trains and works with Columbia/Montour SWAT and will assist each other in long, complex operations.

“The core goal of any Specialized Response Team is to value and save human lives. That’s why we dedicate so much energy and effort into training for various high-risk incidents and heavily rely on our specialized equipment to save our lives,” Brown told Webb Weekly. “Having the training associated with SRT greatly assists in the demanding incidents in the field where life or death decisions have to made in split seconds. On a patrol level, SRT members have the skills to handle quickly developing incidents and solve those incidents successfully. Being on the team has allowed me to greatly improve several skills in law enforcement that have saved many lives, including my own life, and the team members I serve with. Every team member relies on one another to keep each other alive while selflessly serving the public and keeping our County safe.”

Brown described how SRT’s work can end in success.

“In 2012, we had a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who barricaded himself in a structure and was suicidal. The individual quickly approached the team with two large kitchen knives in both hands. As the individual advanced on the team with the knives overhead, he was shot with a less-lethal direct impact sponge round, causing him to quickly fall to the ground where he was immobilized and safely taken into custody. Several years later the individual approached one of the team members and said he was in a bad place at the time of the incident and wanted to thank SRT for saving his life.”

These types of successes are the result of a rigorous regimen of training by SRT members. According to Brown, at a minimum, SRT trains eight hours every other week, plus one full week a year, which consists of approximately 250 hours of training per year. SRT maintains specialized equipment to include less-lethal weapons, chemical munitions, ballistic armor, helmets, and shields, as well as breaching tools for gaining entry into barricaded structures.

He said SRT responds to approximately 1-2 callouts a month and has a response time of less than an hour. SRT members can be called for an incident 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Members of SRT are chosen through a rigorous application process that includes a physical fitness test, firearms standards, a team interview followed by the leadership interview. Once the candidate passes all phases, they are ranked and appointed as needed. The new member is then placed on a one-year probationary status and is appointed to the Quartermaster Program. The Quartermaster Program allows the candidate to gain experience and train with the team but limits the responsibility and involvement in actual operations. The candidate goes through several required certifications: less-lethal, firearms qualifications with a minimum score of 90 percent, basic SWAT school, chemical munitions deployment, flash bang deployment, chemical agent exposure, and special operation tactics.

Once the probationary member completes the certifications and becomes proficient in operations, they are made full-fledged SRT Operators and given their SRT Unit Patches and Operator Pin. The team member is then sent to specialized training in whatever discipline is decided based on the team’s needs. SRT members consist of snipers, specialized breachers, entry operators, shield operators, and less-lethal/chemical munition operators.

Over the years, SRT has saved many lives and maintains strict standards based on law, policy, ethics, and their mission statement. The team’s main funding for protective equipment and gear comes from the North Central Taskforce as well as donations from generous businesses and supporters.

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