The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

August 26, 2007

Critical Incident Response Team coming together

Support helps special police response unit

MERCER COUNTY — When the Critical Incident Response Team was formed two years ago, it had no specialized training or equipment and more than a few skeptics about whether it was needed.

Since then, the combined efforts of the federal government and local community, along with the dedication of the team members, have made it a functioning unit, confident in its abilities.

“I’m very happy with the advances we have made, so far,” said Hermitage Police Chief Patrick B. McElhinny, a member of the team’s oversight board. “I have every confidence we can do what we’re doing safely now.”

The unit is made up of 15 policemen from Hermitage, Sharon, Southwest Mercer County Regional and Grove City. The members had to pass a traditional interview process to join the team, and must complete quarterly firearms examinations — the state requires policemen to qualify only once a year — and an annual physical fitness test.

The team is designed to respond to unusual situations, such as snipers, hostage and barricade standoffs and high risk arrests, and dealings with more sophisticated criminals, who employ barricaded doors and security cameras.

The federal government has stepped forward with the training. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency provided 40 hours of tactical training.

“It would have cost us about $20,000 for a private vendor,” McElhinny said.

Every other month, two members of the team attend a training session with an FBI agent — also for free — and then train the rest of the team. Subjects covered so far have included building entry and firearms.

“The quality of what we’re getting is really, really high,” McElhinny said.

Community support also has raised the level of the team. Tom Marshall of Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, Hermitage, donated a trailer loaded with sledge hammers, pry bars, hand tools and other items, and Duferco Farrell Corp., Farrell, made a 500-pound steel entry door that the team will use to practice building entries.

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