October 2013 Field Release
Lt. Scott Martin
Sgt. George Economidis
Sgt. Alex Montoya
CO Charles Spencer Jr.
On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the clock tower at the University of Austin in Texas. He was well armed and began shooting anyone who fell into the crosshairs of his rifle. Before he was killed by a small team of local police officers, he killed over a dozen people. One year prior, on August 11, 1965, widespread riots devastated the community of Watts in Los Angeles when racial tensions exploded into six days of mayhem. Motivated by these, and other critical incidents across the country, Inspector Daryl Gates of the Los Angeles Police Department championed for the creation of a specially trained and equipped group of officers to handle high risk events. The first Special Weapons and Tactics Team was formed in 1969 in Los Angeles and became known as SWAT.
Recognizing the need for a similarly trained and equipped team in Pima County, the Pima County Sheriff's Department formed the first SWAT Team in Southern Arizona in 1971. The initial team was handpicked by Lieutenant Jim Rose and was made up of military veterans as their prior training and experience was invaluable. Resources were difficult to come by. The first uniforms were surplus military fatigues. Rifles were not widely used in law enforcement, so many members purchased their own, often utilizing hunting type rifles for counter sniper operations.
As the team began to evolve, Pima County SWAT increased in size into two squads, between sixteen and twenty operators each. They responded to barricaded suspects, high risk arrests, conducted surveillance, and assisted with narcotics investigations. While not originally accepted by most law enforcement agencies, SWAT began to see expansion across the country in the 1980's as more teams were formed. By that time, Pima County SWAT had been in existence for more than a decade.
Also in the early 1980's, the first Crisis Negotiations Team (CNT) was formed to support the tactical element in resolving dangerous situations such as hostage rescues and barricaded gunmen. The first CNT squad was six negotiators plus a sergeant. The first CNT training was based largely on what would later become Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).
The Pima County Sheriff's Department has always been an innovative force and SWAT has been no different. The Pima County SWAT Team has been on the ground level in the development of new technologies, such as less lethal equipment, to include Tasers. The SWAT Team was one of the first to develop and implement the highly specialized skill of explosive breaching. Perhaps one of the most significant developments in tactical teams was to add, TEMS or Tactical Emergency Medical Support, began in Pima County as well. Under the leadership of Dr. Richard Carmona, Department Surgeon and former SWAT operator, the TEMS program incorporates medical support into the SWAT team and has now become a national standard.
Over the years, the Pima County SWAT Team continued to develop, improving standards of selection and training as well as gaining valuable experience through dozens of high risk missions each year. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, SWAT undertook a new role of homeland security, and joined the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) as members of the Rapid Response Team (RRT). Federal grant funding also provided for improved equipment such as the BEAR and BEARCAT armored vehicles, upgraded body armor, and other technologies to help improve safety and mission success.
In 2004, Sheriff Dupnik, along with other law enforcement leaders in Pima County, began to discuss the regionalization of SWAT resources. In an effort to create the best trained and best equipped SWAT Team in Southern Arizona, capable of responding to assist any of the participating agencies, the Pima Regional SWAT Governing Board was created. Throughout 2004, the Governing Board convened several times to plan and implement what would become Pima Regional SWAT. In January, 2005, the Pima Regional SWAT Team became operational. Participating agencies include the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Oro Valley Police Department, Marana Police Department, Sahuarita Police Department, Pascua Yaqui Police Department, South Tucson Police Department and the Tucson Airport Authority.
Since the formation of Pima Regional SWAT, the Sheriff's Department Canine Unit has been incorporated under the SWAT umbrella since police canines are frequently used during SWAT operations. The Pima County Bomb Squad was also included under the SWAT umbrella and in 2009 it became the Pima Regional Bomb Squad. This incorporated explosives investigators, explosives detection canines and bomb technicians from the participating agencies. Today, both the Canine Unit and the Pima Regional Bomb Squad integrate seamlessly to provide a more operationally capable SWAT Team to meet the changing threats that face the citizens of Pima County.
For more than forty years, the Pima County and Pima Regional SWAT Teams have remained focused on their core function of saving lives. Through diligent training, forward thinking and consistent leadership, the SWAT Team has transformed from a small group of military veterans tasked to create a program where none existed, to a nationally recognized, highly skilled group of professionals tasked with building upon their past and providing a lifesaving resource to the citizens of Pima County.
A more complete history of Pima County and Pima Regional SWAT is available here:
The Pima Regional Motor Academy consists of instructors from the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Oro Valley and Marana. The most recent academy started on September 30, 2013. There are students from the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Oro Valley, Marana. Sahuarita and the Pasqua-Yaqui Nation.
The school is designed to take a person who has never ridden and teach them how to ride over a four week period. The training consists of two weeks of cone problems at the Marana Air park. They learn how to ride slow and maneuver the bike throughout a cone course . They go through braking exercises and go off-road. Once they qualify on the cone course, they move onto road training. After that, they advance to riding on the roadways. They will ride approximately 1700 miles throughout Pima County. They will ride during the day and night, and will also be subjected to Mock Pursuits.
The students will be evaluated by instructors who ride behind them looking for mistakes and errors in judgment. They are taught to ride defensively and aggressively so they can go home each night.
Recently, the Sheriff's Department received approval to purchase a used Cessna T206. This aircraft is designed to bring our fixed wing patrol platform in line with the department's philosophy of moving towards a safer, more cost efficient Air Unit.
The current fleet of fixed wing aircraft used for patrol support is an aging fleet. The Helio-Courier aircraft are no longer in production and, as a result, it is extremely difficult to find replacement parts. Survey 1 is currently being used for parts to keep Survey 2 in the air.
In addition, our Helio-Couriers are not FAA certificated aircraft and therefore are not required to adhere to customary airworthiness standards and subsequent directives to ensure flight safety. The new Cessna T206 is a certificated aircraft and its addition to the Air Unit will complement the Air Unit's multifaceted missions of; patrol support, prisoner extradition, search and rescue operations, and assisting in ongoing criminal investigations.
The Sheriff's Department was able to finance the entire purchase of the T206 through utilization of seized assets and currency; at no cost to the taxpayer. The Helio-Couiers will subsequently be liquidated, reducing the number of aircraft in the fleet and the proceeds returned to the department.
The purchase of the Cessna T206 will ensure the continued safety of the flight crew and allow the Pima County Sheriff's Department's Air Unit to continue to serve the citizens of Pima County.
The DUI Unit would like to remind all districts and patrol deputies that with the upcoming holiday season, you can expect to see an increase in the number of intoxicated drivers on the roadway. Please do not let impaired drivers get away.......or you may be dealing with them much sooner than you imagined, at a collision. To assist with better coverage, the DUI Unit will be splitting their hours of operation. Two will be working from 1600-2400, and two will be working from 2000-0400. Statistically, DUI's are greater during those hours and we are hoping the change will have a positive impact. Please call upon a DUI Unit deputy to assist you with getting through a DUI investigation quickly.
The key to effective deterrence is the public's perception of the likelihood of being caught. We know that field deputies play a key role in helping to identify impaired drivers and getting them off our roads. During the holidays, these efforts are stepped up to combine high visibility law enforcement and public awareness to deter or detect drunk drivers. With the upcoming holiday season also comes a very busy schedule. The Traffic Section which consists of the DUI Unit, the Traffic Unit, and the Motor Unit will begin the holiday schedule the weekend of Thanksgiving. We will be conducting DUI Sobriety Checkpoints and DUI Saturation Patrols every weekend thereafter until the beginning of the New Year.
Arizona mandates laws that judges must adhere to and impose sentences, even for first time offenders that include jail time, court costs, and attorney's fees. Other consequences include loss of job/loss of income, loss of driving privileges, and the worst consequence of drunk driving is injuring or killing someone. In Arizona, if you are driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and someone dies as a result of your reckless behavior, you could be facing 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter charges. Drunken driving consequences are now extremely harsh and judges are getting ever stricter in handing out fines and penalties. Drunk driving is preventable, but the consequences of drunk driving could have devastating effects. Assuming the alcohol impaired driver is still alive at the end of the night, he/she faces serious legal action and punishment.
With your help, the Sheriff's Department is expecting the streets to be safer for all of our citizens.
The Sheriff's Department is deeply saddened to announce the passing of R.L. "Gabby" Gabbert. As many of you already know, Gabby fought cancer for the last 3 years but finally had to lay down the gauntlet. Gabby spent 27 years in the Air Force, serving 2 tours in Vietnam. His career spanned working as a Radio Technician, Loadmaster, 17th Air Force Senior Enlisted Advisor to General Brown and lastly as a 1st Sergeant prior to retiring from Davis Monthan Air Base in 1982.
He followed his Air Force career by working for Pima County Corrections as a Corrections Officer, then?moved over to the Sheriff's Department as a Material Manager. However, he was just not ready to completely retire, so he started a part-time job with Reproductions, mostly delivering blueprints to architects. He quit that 5 years later, stating that Tucson traffic was, well I think we all know! Then, after a brief break, he was back at it with Meritage Homes in their office area, doing whatever needed to be done. Finally he decided to 'retire' completely and started to enjoy the freedom to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
Since he was an avid bowler, he spent plenty of time in the various bowling alleys and did achieve FIVE 300 games, his first one at the age of 70!!
It is impossible to express what a wonderful human being he was, but those that knew him KNOW. His family and friends will miss him forever.
(Information courtesy of Adair Funeral Home)
As our 150 year anniversary approaches, we are getting ready to publish a NEW Sheriff's Department History Book. Information will be coming out over the next few months providing details on how you will be involved in this project. Every person who is part of the Sheriff's Department family will be pictured and given an opportunity to purchase one of these books.
Right now we are in the preliminary stages and are trying to gather the pictures and information needed to make a great book. We are looking for any old pictures, interesting stories or information people have about the Sheriff's Department, starting from the old west and spanning to modern age of law enforcement. We will be using information from all areas of the Department. We will scan and return any photos submitted. If you have materials that you think would be good for our history book please contact Deputy Cris Gonzales.
On September 25, 2013, Pima County Adult Detention Complex opened a new 44-bed housing unit for female pre-trial defendants, Pod 1-Lima. Originally designed as a small housing unit in 1984, this area was most recently home to the PCADC inmate Law Library. Unfortunately, the growing inmate populations at the PCADC started pushing at the seams. This year the PCADC reached an all time high headcount of 2,238 inmates; with adult male headcounts rising at 6% and adult female headcounts rising a staggering 22%. Although, this does not resolve all of our population challenges, this buys us the necessary time to begin long-term planning for other housing options and continue our efforts in the community to reduce recidivism.
As a result of this shift, the PCADC inmate Law Library has a new renovated home in the East Unit, the newest area of the complex built in 2005. The new library is fully functional with unlimited legal reference material, serving both pro-se and general population inmates with legal concerns. This unit provides services to over 40 inmates weekly and is very important to the inmate population. Our hope is to be able to expand law library services to the inmates through housing unit kiosks and secure web connections in the future.
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