special operations group
|Sergeant Steve Marino
|Sergeant Tom Carroll
|Officer Mike Carachilo
During the 1980s and into the 1990s the narcotics trade within our
city had grown tremendously. Our city for the first time experienced high numbers of narcotics dealers from the New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. With the influx of sophisticated large city narcotics dealers came turf disputes between those dealers.
Our city for the first time-experienced shootings associated with the narcotics trade. Armed dealers were also making threats against residents and police for the first time. I t was at this time our department along with hundreds of other departments across
the nation experiencing the same phenomenon formed special
weapons and tactics teams to combat the increase in violence associated with the narcotics trade.
The Special Operations Group’s mission is to support the Scranton Police Department in serving narcotics search warrants and responding to critical incidents. Critical incidents are defined as:
The standoff created by an armed or potentially armed individual or individuals in any location, whether fortified or not, who is refusing
to comply with police demands for surrender.
The firing upon citizens and/or police by an armed subject whether stationary or mobile.
The holding of any person(s) against his-her will by an armed
or potentially armed subject.
HIGH RISK WARRANT SERVICE
The service of arrest warrants when there is a high likelihood of
armed or potentially armed subjects and the potential of armed resistance is high.
The security of special persons such as VIP’s witnesses or subjects based on threat or potential threat to the well being of those persons.
Any assignment approved by the Chief of Police based on a high threat level or the need for special expertise.
COMPOSITION and STRUCTURE
The Special Operations Group currently has 20 operators they are activated on an as needed basis by the Chief of Police or his designee. The Special Operations Group consists of one Commander and two team leaders. The Commander is responsible for the overall supervision of Special Operation personnel and other members of the team such as Crisis Negotiators. The Special Operations Commander position is generally administrative at the scene of a mission supervising the overall operation of the team from the inner perimeter tactical
command post. The Special Operations Group Commander can be deployed operationally if assistance is needed in the field. In order to fulfill this operationally duty, the Special Operations Group Commander must pass all physical fitness standards, shooting qualifications and be trained in the same tactics as other team members.
The Special Operations Group Commander, based upon his-her tactical skills and leadership abilities appoints the team leaders. The team leaders are under the direct supervision of the Special Operations Group Commander. The team leaders are in command of the team while at the scene of an incident or training session in the absence of the Special Operations Group Commander. The Special Operations Group team leaders may be of any rank within the department, as rank has no bearing on Special Operations Group functions.
Team members are qualified to deploy all chemical agents currently in the team’s inventory by using one of several 37mm gas guns, or by hand held chemical agent canisters. Team members are also qualified in the use of noise/flash diversionary devices. Entry team members carry for all call outs, specific chemical agents that the team leader or commander has authorized for that particular call out. Three marksmen/observer teams are tasked with the gathering of
tactical intelligence and long range precision fire support for
the Special Operations Group Team.
The marksmen/observer teams are equipped with long-range precision firing rifles equipped with variable power telescopic sights, the marksmen/observer teams are equipped with range finders for measuring distance and deploy limited night vision technology. The teams are tasked with serving as the eyes of the Special Operations Group Commander or Team Leaders during all barricade gunman call outs. They also conduct site surveys of locations prior to serving narcotics search warrants. They are deployed and remain in strategic locations, well away from the target area to observe and gather intelligence using various tools such as binoculars. The intelligence they gather is continually reported back to the tactical commander or team leaders. They are also tasked with making precision long-range shots, at violent or potentially violent subjects when in compliance with the deadly force policy of the police department.
The team has four Emergency Medical Technicians along with two highly trained and experienced Paramedics. The medical technicians
are primary team members and on each call out one or more make
entry with fellow team members.
The team also consists of three crisis negotiators. The negotiation
team members are highly trained in the art of conversation and persuasion and have on many occasions persuaded barricaded gunman during incidents both criminal and mental health in nature to surrender their stronghold and surrender peacefully to the tactical element of
The Special Operations Group team selects all prospective members through applicant testing. Criteria for application is based on the following: Two years as a Scranton Police Officer satisfactory job performance, no unnecessary use of force complaints, recommendation from an immediate supervisor, satisfactory physical fitness levels, and firearms marksmanship levels. Testing consists of Special Operations Group semi-annual physical agility test (all members must pass twice a year) firearms qualifications and recommendation from the Special Operations Group review board.
All new members regardless of time on the job serve a one-year probation period. During the probationary period, the new Special Operation Group probationary member will train with experienced members and be evaluated by Special Operation Group team leaders.
At the conclusion of the probationary period the probationer’s performance both during training and actual call out’s is evaluated by the entire team. All team members then vote on whether to make the probationer a full team member based on performance and any documented information other team members may wish to present.
A two-thirds majority vote is required to confirm the probationer as
a full team member.
Team members are issued basic core equipment such as a special radio, ballistic vest and helmet, gas mask and special weapons they have qualified with. The team has at its disposal various means of deploying chemical agents as well as direct fire impact rounds used to incapacitate an individual without inflicting serious bodily injury. Other common equipment routinely deployed include, mirrors, door rams, pry bars, and ballistic shields.
The Special Operations Group received its formal training from our armed forces, Navy Seal Team # 4. Our team traveled on two occasions to Pittsburg Pa. where Seal Team # 4 trained our team in building entry, room-clearing techniques and shooting skills. Army Special Forces, Green Berets, trained our medical technicians. Our team has traveled to Las Vegas on two occasions to train with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Swat Team. Our team trains on a continual basis with instructors from the National Tactical Officers Association in such areas of expertise as management of critical incidents, serving high-risk warrants, active shooter incidents, marksmen training etc.
SPECIAL OPERATION GROUP UTILIZATION
In conjunction with our Special Investigation Division (Narcotics Officers), our team has served hundreds of narcotics search warrants resulting in the arrest of many narcotics dealers and the recovery of large sums of money and narcotics. Out team has also recovered many firearms while serving narcotics search warrants.
During the past several years, the Special Operations Group has successfully resolved many high-risk incidents involving the use of deadly weapons such as firearms. In December of 1999, our team arrested Eddie Morales for the murder of a Holyoke Massachusetts Police Officer, who Mr. Morales had shot and killed four days prior.
Once Again in December of 2000 our team arrested Fernando Perez
who had shot and wounded a Springfield Massachusetts Police Officer, during a robbery.
Our team routinely responds to barricade incidents both criminal and mental health in nature. I t is always our goal to resolve incidents in a peaceful manner using negotiation however, it is the individual who has barricaded himself who ultimately decides whether the incident is resolved peacefully or forces the tactical team to intervene.
Our team provides training to patrol officers concerning officer safety as well as protecting citizens within the danger zone during critical incidents. Team members staff all three shifts as supervisors as well as patrol officers and we share our knowledge and experience with the patrol officers.
Team members volunteer time participating in various community events such as National Night Out, Gang Resistance Education and Training Camp, school presentations, and Camp Cadet sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Police .