The county prosecutor and sheriff offices launched two new Regional SWAT Teams to be deployed county-wide and allow highly trained and specially equipped officers to respond more quickly to critical incidents.
Both of the new units were purchased and equipped jointly by the prosecutor and sheriff using criminal forfeiture funds and at no expense to taxpayers. The units will be staffed on a rotating schedule by Regional SWAT Team members.
Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal and Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino jointly announced the initiative on Nov. 1.
The new patrol units are comprised of approximately 55 law enforcement officers from the Prosecutor’s Office, the Sheriff’s Department, and 24 Bergen County municipal police departments. The units will be on scheduled patrol across Bergen County for 12 hours a day, Monday through Saturday.
They will primarily provide back-up and support services to municipal officers responding to dangerous calls for service, such as domestic violence, shots-fired, crimes in progress, or high-risk motor vehicle stops.
In addition, the new units will support traditional Regional SWAT Team calls for service, including active shooter, barricaded subject or hostage situations. Because they will already be on the road, they will be able to respond more quickly to such calls, and in some cases, avoid a full SWAT deployment when the quick-response unit alone is sufficient.
In addition to acting as a back-up response asset to Bergen County’s many municipal police agencies, the quick-response units will be conducting routine critical infrastructure patrols.
On a daily basis, the officers will be checking schools, hotels, office and government buildings, as well as other buildings and areas of critical infrastructure as identified by municipal police agencies and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office’s Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Units.
According to a 2016 study released by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing, 34% of police officers killed between 2010 and 2014 were alone without back-up when they were killed.
According to the same study, during more than one in five, or 22% of these instances, the slain police officers were responding to a routine call regarding domestic violence. Additionally, in all but one case, the responding officers were shot to death.
The report concluded that the “necessity of having three or more officers at a domestic situation to adequately separate parties, monitor family members and, if necessary, physically restrain and arrest a suspect, is apparent.”
“The goal here is to have these new units serve as a force multiplier for our local departments to ensure officer safety when responding to dangerous calls for service,” Grewal said. “Such a response will be of particular benefit to our smaller, as well as our busier departments, both of which sometimes have fewer officers to respond to potentially dangerous calls for service.”
Additionally, some calls for service in Bergen County, like active shooter or hostage situations, require a tactical SWAT response and time is of the essence during such calls.
“Experience shows that a direct and immediate response by multiple, tactically trained and equipped officers greatly increases the safety of civilians, including suspects, and officers,” Saudino said. “These mobile units will provide for a quicker response by [SWAT] officers and are another example of how we are proactive here in Bergen County.”