In recent months, the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office and the Conway Police Department have separated into two separate Special Weapons and Tactics teams.
Officials from both camps claim the separation is short-term, and a rejoining is expected at some point in the future.
For several years, the Conway Police Department and Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office have combined to form the Faulkner County Metro SWAT team. At this point, the Metro SWAT is fielded solely by Conway police, according to Conway Chief of Police A.J. Gary.
Sheriff Andy Shock said his office’s withdrawal from the Metro SWAT team was to allow time to increase its numbers on the SWAT team.
“For years now, the sheriff’s office has had only one or two members, with the police department fielding the rest,” Shock said. “We were severely out-numbered. We’ve put a strong interest in beefing up the SWAT team from our standpoint, because we weren’t pulling our own weight.”
Shock said the recruitment of deputies to the SWAT team began shortly after he took office in January. Around April, members of the sheriff’s office began receiving training.
The majority of deputies receiving SWAT training are from the sheriff’s office patrol unit.
“Their main job duty is patrol,” Shock said. “SWAT is secondary.”
Therefore, the entire unit, of about eight members, has not been able to receive extensive training as a unit. However, each member receives monthly training, about eight hours a month, of SWAT training.
“With this level of training now, it makes these deputies more capable and well-trained,” Shock said. “It benefits everyone.”
Shock said the sheriff’s office SWAT team includes two negotiators, and is led by Maj. John Randall, who has previous experience on SWAT teams.
Since its formation, Shock said the sheriff’s office SWAT team has responded to two drug-related search warrants in the past month.
Conway Chief of Police A.J. Gary said the Faulkner County Metro SWAT team will still remain a full, 12-member squad in the absence of Sheriff’s deputies.
While the two teams are separate, Gary said there are still possibilities of the team’s responding together, if needed.
In the end, intentions from both sides indicate a rejoining under the umbrella of the Metro SWAT team.
“We have absolute, full intentions on rejoining (the Metro SWAT team), but we want to get on our feet to where we are comparable to Conway’s SWAT members,” Shock said. “A big part of that is for our citizens. Combining forces, assets and training in case of a tragic situation, so that we can all respond.”
(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1246. Follow Lee Hogan on Twitter at twitter.com/LCD_LeeHogan. To comment on this and other stories, log on to thecabin.net.)