Advanced tech gives SCPD's SWAT division all the tools to keep Sioux City residents safe
Since the early 80's Sioux City's Police Department has had a SWAT or Special Weapons and Tactics Division.
Siouxland News Reporter Derek Krayenhagen talked with members of the SWAT team about the division and some of the technology the division has at their disposal.
One of those pieces of equipment is an Armored Rescue Vehicle or ARV.
It's just one of the awesome things the department has at their disposal, well that and the coolest remote control car you'll ever see.
Actually, it's a tactical robot that the SWAT team uses when they are put in potentially dangerous situations.
These devices give the Sioux City SWAT team extra advantages when they get called on scene.
"We take every opportunity and use every piece of equipment that we can to keep the officers and the operators safe," said SWAT Commander, Sgt. Steve TenNapel.
Along with the robot and the rescue vehicle the SWAT team uses a traveling command center, that houses tons of gear for the team, cutting down their response time.
TenNapel said, "We can bring that to the scene relatively quickly, we don't have to unload our stuff from the police station into a vehicle then transport it to scene, everything's loaded and ready to go."
Sioux City's SWAT began in 1983, the first team only equipped with issued revolvers, shotguns, and standard body armor.
The modern age SWAT team has elite police officers who have years worth of training.
"For an officer to get on, it definitely is an honor and it definitely shows that they've demonstrated some level of responsibility and maturity," said Sgt. Jeremy McClure.
Police Chief Rex Mueller said, "Our SWAT officers are often our trainers so a lot of those guys with those special skills bring those back to the officers in training so that the officers are tactically more competent."
As the SWAT team has grown so has their equipment, long gone are the days of issued revolvers, shotguns, and standard body armor.
So what exactly does the SWAT team use the ARV for?
TenNapel said, "It'd be for a rescue situation where there were people hurt or shot in a danger area. And the gunmen or suspect hasn't been taken into custody yet. We could use this as a armored ambulance to drive into the hot zone to do rescues with it."
Sioux City SWAT got the vehicle for free because of a surplus by the national government. Sioux City along with Storm Lake are the only parts of Siouxland that have this type of vehicle.
The ARV has only been used twice this year and only a handful of times in the last four years when the team got the vehicle.
"We've used it successfully against suspects in vehicles where we'll block the street with it and they can't escape," said TenNapel.
While Sergeant TenNapel enjoys the ARV, Sergeant McClure and I agree, the tactical robot is just as cool if not cooler.
McClure said, "Think overall the robot is one of my more fun things I like to operate."
Used for times the team doesn't want to send an officer into a building, the robot is there to do their dirty work.
"Best example is into a basement, tactically that is a very dangerous place to go into somebody's house. And if we can send the robot down there to investigate what's happening down there first, that's the safest way to do it," said TenNapel.
The tactical robot was granted to the department through the help of the Missouri River Historical Department, an expense that usually runs around $15,000.
One of the best features of the robot is that it can actually help officers communicate with people involved in the situation.
TenNapel said, "If we were to encounter somebody with the robot, we can talk to them, try to de-escalate the situation or have the crisis negotiators speak to that person using the robot it has a microphone and speaker on it."
While we may not see the SWAT team too often, we can be glad they are there to help out, and have these advanced pieces of equipment ready on a moments notice.
"I think we're a vital piece to what the Chief has at his disposal to resolve situations," said McClure.
All members of the SWAT team are trained and know how to drive the armored rescue vehicle, while only a few are trained on the tactical robot.