Waukesha County's newest SWAT team recently completed successful training exercise in New Berlin
Muskego and New Berlin have been members of the Suburban Critical Incident Team only since January 2013 and the transition has been seamless.
"The transition was very smooth and we feel we are running a well-oiled machine," said New Berlin Capt. Michael Glider after the hostage drills the combined team completed last week.
"We're very, very pleased with how things ended up today," Glider said.
Before joining the combined team, both Muskego and New Berlin had their own SWAT teams.
But combining with the other communities eventually made sense from a cost standpoint, said Muskego Police Chief Craig Moser.
"Over the years, obviously technology and equipment needs have increased and also the amount of training a SWAT officer needs has increased. So, we thought it was more practical and cost effective to combine with the other departments," he said.
"Instead of each department buying its own equipment needed for a tact team, we were able to combine equipment for a larger team," Moser said.
In New Berlin, manpower was a big issue, said Glider who commanded the New Berlin SWAT team. When the devastating recession began in 2008, police hiring in New Berlin was sharply curtailed, he said.
The city had 21 SWAT officers. Looking five years down the road, police officials could see a manpower problem looming.
"We couldn't keep up those numbers enough to replace those who are retiring," Glider said.
The original plan was to explore combining with Muskego, he said. But before contacts could be made, Tom Bento, commander of the parent organization of the Suburban Critical Incident Team, asked if New Berlin and Muskego wanted to join the team.
At the time, it was called the Lakes Critical Incident Team and consisted of just five communities — Brookfield, Hartland, Delafield, Chenequa and Pewaukee. It had operated for decades.
"Lakes was looking at the same problems we were," Glider said.
As officials from all the emergency responders explored combining, they discovered that it should be relatively easy.
"We found our training and concepts and ideas about how things should be run were very similar," Glider said.
So, early last year, Muskego and New Berlin joined the team. Mukwonago joined shortly after and Elm Grove came this year, bringing the total number of communities to nine, Glider said. Unlike Muskego and New Berlin, neither Mukwonago nor Elm Grove had its own SWAT team.
The Lakes team changed its name and now Bento, who is with the Brookfield Police Department, continued as the suburban SWAT team commander. Glider and New Berlin Capt. Jeff Hingiss are assistant commanders.
The nine police chiefs form the policy board. Any discipline is handled by the commander, the assistant commanders and the chief of the department to which the officer belongs.
The combined SWAT team officers are divided into four subteams with officers from several departments on each subteam. The subteams are called out on a rotating basis. The team operates from a mobile command center but has no permanent headquarters.
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