Six TVPD officers selected to join with WVC SWAT team members to create a policing partnershipNov 03, 2022 07:54PM ● By Carl Fauver
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
It just got even tougher to be a “bad guy” in Taylorsville, now that the city’s 16-month-old police department has struck a cooperative partnership with its neighboring law enforcement jurisdiction in West Valley City.
A mobile command post…armored vehicles… two types of drones – for flying outside or inside buildings… and lots of other hi-tech law enforcement equipment are all now available to protect Taylorsville residents in the most serious crime situations – those requiring SWAT team response.
“It was always our plan to enter into some kind of SWAT partnership with another agency from the beginning,” TVPD Chief Brady Cottam said. “We had discussions with a number of different police agencies. This is actually coming together a little later than I had anticipated. But, in the end, it felt like partnering with West Valley City was the best fit. I’m glad we were able to reach this agreement.”
At press time, the final agreement had not yet been officially signed by each city. But the combined SWAT team members had begun training together – and neither side believed there were any snags that would delay the official paperwork.
“This partnership is beneficial for both (cities),” West Valley City SWAT Team Commander Lt. Robert Brinton said. “We were having some manpower struggles on our team – losing officers – and we knew this would provide us with some new, experienced people. All of the Taylorsville personnel have previous SWAT experience from several different agencies. I think it will work well.”
Indeed, the six officers Taylorsville has placed on the team have previous SWAT experience with: Salt Lake, Sandy, West Valley, Cottonwood Heights, Unified Police and even Dallas, Texas. There’s also decades of military experience among the Taylorsville personnel, representing the Army, Navy and Marines.
Leading the TVPD group is SWAT Sgt. Jeff Smith, who is in his eleventh year of law enforcement – most of that with West Valley City. He was among the original hires Taylorsville made in forming their new agency.
“Sgt. Smith is one of our young, bright stars,” Chief Cottam said. “He has plenty of SWAT experience and will be a good leader for the team.”
“We have not yet had a SWAT situation in Taylorsville (since the city police department began operating as an independent agency in July 2021),” Sgt. Smith said. “But there have been times when we probably would have used SWAT team members to assist in serving search warrants if they had been available.”
When most of us think of SWAT teams in action, we may picture suspects barricaded inside homes, threatening to harm hostages. But Sgt. Smith explains, as much as anything, SWAT personnel are deployed to make it safer to serve police warrants on suspects considered to be “high risk.”
“We serve search warrants about once a week and some of them are more dangerous than others,” Sgt. Smith continued. “Sometimes we have had to put homes under surveillance for a long time to find the safest opportunity to serve a warrant. Now, with the SWAT team, we can raid a home to serve the warrant, if necessary. It’s safer and gives us a very big advantage on the time frame.”
The six Taylorsville team members were chosen from among 14 internal applicants, all with previous SWAT experience.
“We didn’t really conduct interviews for the positions because we were familiar with all of the applicants,” Cottam said. “We ended up making our selections based strictly on previous SWAT experience – which means we still have officers with SWAT experience who were not selected. That is helpful if any future personnel changes are needed.”
Soon after the TVPD SWAT personnel were identified, they joined with their West Valley City counterparts for a busy week of training in late September.
“We trained for 55 hours over four days,” Sgt. Smith said. “We were at a training facility in West Valley, a gun range in Tooele County and even in some vacant houses. It was very intensive. Our team will continue to train with West Valley SWAT team members, for ten-hour days, every other week.”
Of course, all that training will take these officers from their regular TVPD duties twice a month, meaning there will be overall manpower cost increases. Additionally, outfitting the six Taylorsville team members with special safety equipment and weaponry cost the agency about $70,000.
“I am OK with the expenditure for our SWAT team gear because that equipment lasts pretty well,” Cottam added. “We estimate the annual personnel cost for the team will be about $25,000. At this point, I don’t believe we will need to request additional funding (from the Taylorsville City Council, specifically for the SWAT team). But it will take some time to further evaluate that. The big thing is – West Valley already has the expensive equipment like an armored vehicle. Our startup costs would be at least four times as much if we were starting our own SWAT team without a partner.”
Cottam, by the way, has years of SWAT team experience under his own belt. But he says he won’t be “hands on” with this team much.
“I spent 14 of my 27 law enforcement years on a SWAT team; but I have not been in it for six years,” he said. “I am behind in that world. The dynamics change all the time. I am smart enough to know I am a rusty nail.”
Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson told city council members about the new SWAT team partnership at one of their recent meetings.“SWAT team partnerships like this are not uncommon,” the mayor said. “We just realized there is strength in numbers. We always knew we wanted to have our own SWAT team. Combining with West Valley City mor