By Rikki King Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — They’ll get a bigger, better SWAT team for cheaper.
That’s the goal for six police departments in the south and east Snohomish County area.
Police leaders in Lynnwood, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Monroe, Bothell and Lake Forest Park have been working for months to launch a new Special Weapons and Tactics team.
Each department will share the costs, Lynnwood police Cmdr. Steve Rider said. That way, each city doesn’t have to organize and fund its own SWAT team.
Rider will serve as team commander. Edmonds assistant police chief Jim Lawless will be assistant team commander.
Since the economy sank, police and fire agencies have struggled to maintain specialty units with smaller budgets and fewer bodies. Fielding SWAT teams has been a recurring challenge throughout the county.
South county needs a SWAT team for high-risk, high-liability operations, such as when someone barricades themselves inside a house, Rider said.
SWAT training and equipment is expensive, and over the years, fewer officers have been available to fill spots on the former south county team. Some grew older, left the force or had family commitments, Lawless said.
The problem kept coming up at talks among police chiefs, Lawless said.
Every department has fewer resources these days, and it made sense to regionalize SWAT, he said.
The North Sound Metro SWAT Team is governed by an interlocal contract. The last city to join signed the contract in January.
The team is governed by an executive board made up of police chiefs from each participating city, according to the contract.
Team members have been training together for about five months, Rider said. They can work separate missions at the same scene, but they’re not yet fully integrated as one tactical unit.
Rider and Lawless hope that can happen by late spring or early summer. They’re aiming for the team to have 24 officers who are trained for SWAT operations.
Each participating agency pays for its officers’ training and equipment, according to the contract.
Larger purchases will be split among the cities, Lawless said.
Over the past year, SWAT teams have seen changes elsewhere in the county as well.
Everett sidelined its team in spring 2011 due to retirements and injuries. The team went back in service in early January, Sgt. Robert Goetz said.
For much of 2011, police in north county talked of forming a regional SWAT team there as well.
Those talks have since fallen through, Marysville police Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux said last week.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org