3 In Your Town: A day with Chattanooga SWAT
Recently the Chattanooga SWAT team allowed Channel 3 to follow them along during their weekly training on Moccasin Bend. The all-volunteer squad usually prefers to keep themselves out of the media spotlight.
“It's not a fear that we don't want you to know what we're doing,” explained Sgt Rusty Morrison. “It's that we don't want what we're training and working hard to do. It's a matter of life and death for us."
The squad consists of Chattanooga Police Officers who have been with the department for a minimum of three years. Annually, the SWAT team responds to no less than 40 situations involving barricaded suspects and high-risk warrants.
"Depending on who the subject is, what the nature of the warrant is,” says Morrison. “For instance, if it is a narcotics search warrant, what is the history of that subject. Do they have a prior history of using guns, do they have an assault on law enforcement?"
Recent headlines about mass shootings have humbled the nation. While citizens and lawmakers grapple with over the appropriate steps to take, law enforcement agencies across the nation are using the instances to quickly adjust their plan of action.
"It's sad that we have to have these events but we want to learn and get better and what can we do,” says Morrison. “We almost have to go from what if this happens here to when it happens here. Have we prepared for it? And I think we learn from every event across the country, we have takeaways to better serve the community and help victims in these types of incidents."
Many encounters in a SWAT situation bring law enforcement and the general public together in a dramatic and sometimes tragic fashion. It's not easy for anyone involved. The events can take a physical and maybe more significantly a mental toll on these men and women.
"It is tough when you go home and try to share that with your family and them having a full concept of what you're dealing with,” explains Morrison. “But the spinoff is that amongst the SWAT team, we're a tight group and we're able to talk about our experiences, what's going on across the country and we understand each other."
But at the end of the day, the members of Chattanooga SWAT are here because they are sworn to protect their neighbors. They are part of this community, 24 hours a day.
"At the end of the day, we're just like anybody else. We have no superpowers. We get up and take care of our kids and send our kids to school and we go do our job like anybody else."