Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TOP STORY > >Cabot set to form SWAT unit

Leader staff writer

Cabot is growing in more than population and businesses. This weekend, Police Chief Jackie Davis told a group of council members assembled for the first budget planning meeting of the year that crime is on the rise and with their approval, he will start two special units in the police department, a sex crime and domestic violence unit and a special response team to deal with especially violent, dangerous or hostage situations.

Two new positions would have to be created for the sex-crime and domestic-violence unit, Davis said, and if he can only have one of those positions approved for the 2009 budget, he wants an officer, preferably a female, to investigate sex crimes.

Davis told the group that also included the mayor, city clerk and several city department heads that since the first of the years, reports of child molestation and sexual assault are up 12 percent over 2007. In that same time period, domestic abuse reports are up 10 percent with a 35 percent increase in arrests, he said.

Davis told the group that it takes a minimum of three days to investigate an accusation that a sex crime has been committed. About 75 percent of the time, the investigator determines that the report is false. Such reports are common during marital disputes, he said, but they must be investigated.

“If we do a great job on the front end, innocent people aren’t arrested, but guilty are,” Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said.

The cost of adding the two positions would be $118,000, $40,000 each for salaries and benefits, $18,000 for equipment and $20,000 for two used cars, not necessarily equipped with police packages.

Both officers would be cross trained in each unit so there would always be someone available to conduct an investigation.

Davis said six to eight police officers would be needed for a Special Response Team (commonly called SWAT which stands for special weapons and tactics).

Three have already been hand-picked by their supervisors for the special training they will need, he said. Putting the team together will take about two years, he said.

To be eligible, officers cannot be new to the department. They must pass physical-fitness tests and they must perform well on the firing range.

Davis assured the council members that the team would not be used for ordinary drug busts. No one will be breaking down doors unless it is necessary, he said.

“We learned a long time ago, you knock on the door and have better luck,” he said.

“We hope to save lives. We don’t want to utilize it anymore than we have to,” the chief said.

Davis said equipment for the team would be about $30,000.