Safety and surprise: SRT has a style all its own
By BLAINE CRIMMINS, Staff writer

They’re the special forces of municipal law enforcement. Donning ballistic helmets and Kevlar vests, The Colony’s Special Response Team is both the tip of the spear and the last line of defense.

“When you’re in trouble, you call 9-1-1. When the police are in trouble, they call us,” said Officer Marquell Osborne, the SRT’s ballistic breacher.

The team recently took part in its monthly training drill at an abandoned farm house south of town. There, they practice entry procedures, such as the “rake and break,” in which a team member smashes and clears out a window.

Wearing up to 65 pounds of heavy equipment, they practice formations, sneaking up on the house, breaking down the door, and storming inside. Everyone knows where they’re supposed to go as they move swiftly to secure the residence.

Officer Preston White, who is also the team’s medic, stands as the rearguard.

“Once we come into the residence, every section we take, we don’t want to give up, and we’re not going to do,” White said. “That includes who comes in behind us, so there’s a rearguard. And being a medic, I stay where I can get to anyone on the team at anytime.”

Watching them in action, they look less like police officers and more like Marines. That perception is largely by design, but the SRT is also keen to let residents know that what they do and the way they do it is for the protection of both the team and the community.

“When a lot of people see us dressed up like this and the stuff we have, it’s intimidating,” White said. “The Colony is not that big, why do we need a SWAT team? It’s a life-saving organization. What we do is provide an added level of protection for (the citizens). We’re here, we’re ready, and we’re here for you.”

Sgt. Jim Slack, the unit’s commander, said it’s all about “safety and surprise.” The SRT approaches every operation with the intention of securing the safety of themselves and the city’s residents while surprising the bad guys.

They use “flash bangs” and gas canisters to frighten or otherwise incapacitate their targets without resorting to potentially lethal force.

“If you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, we’re going to get you. Our detectives are good about finding those that need to be found,” White said. “It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but we’ll get you.”

SRT members are also everyday police officers. They like to think of the SRT as a part-time job but a full-time hobby. The team has to be ready to roll at a moment’s notice. In addition to monthly training with all their equipment, each member is responsible for maintaining peak physical fitness.

“Part of doing the job is staying physically fit. It’s a way of life,” Osborne said. “We are not just as good as we have to be, we have to be better than most of the other officers in the department. Anyone can do this job, including you, or including your son. The difference is, not everyone can handle the job. That’s where the mental stress and mental factors come into play. You have to make sure you’re doing the right thing at the right time with the right equipment, and that you’re ready to concentrate.”

And it’s not about being as big or as strong as they can be. It’s about endurance.

“We’re more like tri-athletes. We’re a little bit leaner. It’s about endurance, not about power and strength,” Osborne said. “We may have to open doors using our arms or legs, using power, but we also have to sprint long distances and carry a lot of equipment for an extended period of time.”

Their physical fitness combined with advanced weapons training makes the SRT a formidable law enforcement unit.

“We have training above and beyond patrol officers. We have tools and weapons and tactics that patrol doesn’t have,” Slack said. “We can handle situations safely and securely without risking injury or harm. We have certain ways we have to do things. They have a purpose and a reason. It’s to save lives.”