EPD’s Emergency Response Team
Edmond Police Department personnel are proud of their city’s reputation for being a safe and secure place to live, and they intend to keep it that way. With new equipment available this year, they’re better prepared to protect themselves and city residents, according to Capt. Tim Dorsey of EPD’s Patrol Division.
Patrol officers in Edmond recently received eight new TASER® weapons, thanks to a grant from the Edmond Women’s Club and budgeted funds, Dorsey said. The new TASERS are smaller and easier to use than the three weapons previously owned by the department.
TASERs provide a non-lethal alternative for officers facing situations where a suspect must be restrained. The weapons look similar to conventional handguns, but their barrels are fitted with special cartridges. When the trigger is pulled, compressed nitrogen propels two metal darts that attach to the target, even through heavy clothing, and emit an electrical charge.
The suspect is briefly incapacitated by pulses of electricity – 50,000 volts – overriding his or her nervous system. The short bursts last a total of about five seconds. The subject falls to the ground, allowing officers to employ restraints. Shocks can be readministered if necessary.
“I know there’s some controversy about TASERS,” Dorsey said, “but I have no qualms about their safety. They’re deployed thousands of times across the country without incident.” Many of the cases where TASERS were suspected of causing injury or death involved subjects who were under the influence of illegal drugs and the drug was the cause of the injury, Dorsey said.
Edmond patrol officers are also being equipped with 40 new AR-15 rifles, along with rifle racks and locking systems. Several patrol cars are sporting new LED light bars, which provide brighter, more noticeable flashing lights for emergency situations. And EPD now has in-car video equipment in almost every patrol vehicle.
Dorsey also serves as commander of the police department’s Emergency Response Team. Formed in 2002, the ERT is made up of a 10-member negotiations team, headed by Sgt. Paul Barbour, and a 22-member tactical team, which includes two medics from the Edmond Fire Department. All ERT personnel are full-time police or fire department employees who volunteer to serve as emergency response officers.
The ERT is most often called to serve search warrants, but also goes to scenes where a person is barricaded (either as a criminal or as a potential suicide) and hostage situations. They are called out an average of 11 times a year, Dorsey said, and they’ve been on six calls so far in 2005.
This year, ERT members are enjoying a variety of new equipment, thanks to the Public Safety Sales Tax, recently approved by Edmond voters. The funds became available July 1 of this year and provide more than $800,000 for the police department.
“Our situation in Edmond is fantastic, thanks to the voters who approved this tax,” Dorsey said. “Our equipment is top of the line. For the size of our department, we feel very fortunate.”
With sales tax funds, the ERT was able to purchase new “simunition” weapons, which use non-lethal, paintball-type ammunition, for its twice-a-month training exercises.
ERT members often practice at the new live-fire house at the police department firing range. “The house allows us to do more realistic training,” Dorsey said. Thanks to the simunition weapons, which fire paintballs, officers are able to train even more intensely.
“With live ammunition, we are limited to firing at still targets,” Dorsey said. “Simunition weapons allow movement and provide the most realistic training we get.” During training, ERT members take turns being “bad guys,” and the various colors of paintballs make it easy to track individual shot placement.
Right now, EPD is only equipped with simunition pistols, but they’re in the process of purchasing rifle equipment, which will make their training even more specialized and realistic.
As for actual weaponry, the ERT is currently using a short version of the AR-15, the Colt Commando .223 caliber, and the department is in the process of purchasing night vision equipment, including scopes for the sniper rifles and monoculars for entry team members, allowing them to see in low-light situations. The team has also acquired new body armor and GPS units.
The tactical team also employs a variety of less-lethal weapons, including TASERS, chemical agents and 12-gauge beanbag rounds. One person on each team is designated to specialize in the less-lethal options available for each type of situation.
Dorsey expresses appreciation for Edmond’s ongoing support for the police department. “They support us, not just in words but with their tax dollars,” he said. “This equipment makes it much safer for our guys and then, in turn, for the public. We have a great town.”