In May of 2017, deputies from the Cavalier, Pembina and Walsh County Sheriff’s Departments and border patrol agents with the U. S. Customs and Border Protection Agency formed the Northeastern Special Response Team or (NSRT or SRT) to respond to high-risk security situations.
Posted on 10/5/17
By Lisa Nowatzki
Chief Deputy Podhradsky of the Cavalier County Sheriff’s Department comes to the SRT unit with thirteen years of law enforcement training. When asked about the need for a tactical team, he said that before the formation of the local SRT, the closest tactical team was located in Grand Forks.
Clearly, the local community needs tactical type law enforcement services that have a quicker response time. Podhradsky said, “In the last two months, the SRT team has been deployed three times. Each incident ended peacefully, with no injuries to law enforcement personnel or defendants.”
The SRT has 14 members consisting of three deputies from Cavalier County-Chief Deputy Paul Podhradsky, Deputy John Metzger and Deputy Nick Hoffman. The rest of the team consists of four deputies from Pembina County, four from Walsh County, and one tactical medic.
The team also has three border patrol agents that act as liaisons and train with the tactical unit. The agents are used when needed to support the team mission.
Three members of the team, one from each sheriff’s department, have already gone through Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) training. Podhradsky went to Grand Forks for his tactical training.
Plans for the other 11 team members to complete SWAT training are in the works. Podhradsky said, “The other team members will attend SWAT training in Minot in October.”
When asked about individualization and team member specialization training, Podhradsky replied, “We have one person trained as a tactical medic. The other team members will be trained for the same duties on the team.”
Many tactical teams have individual officers performing one specialized duty such as ground team, long gun or sniper training, tactical medics, entry teams, and K-9 handlers.
Podhradsky advised that tactical specialization is not feasible within the county unit because the team only has fourteen members spread across three counties. At times, it is difficult to coordinate with other team members during a call. Sometimes, some members cannot respond when the team gets activated. Therefore, each member of the team is knowledgeable and proficient in any role within the team.
Assignment to the tactical team is based on several qualifiers. First, the member has to pass a specialized physical agility test. Then the officer must make certain scores with his weapon to be considered for the team.
After the officer has met the requirements, he is then considered for assignment to the team. If the deputy is placed on the team, he must maintain his law enforcement standards and also complete and maintain the standards for the SRT, which are higher than the qualifications for local law enforcement members.
The team trains together once a month for eight to ten hours and training is mandatory. The extra training and duty hours are all voluntary. Members participate on the team as a part of collateral duty. Each officer has a full time duty position in their respective departments.
“Because the team is multi-jurisdictional, the sheriff of each of the three counties has ultimate authority on the scene when the tactical team is deployed. As a collection of law enforcement officers from different jurisdictions, to form a cohesive unit, the team has to have a leader in the field,” Podhradsky said. The SRT‘s main tactical team leader is a drug task force agent that is employed through the Walsh County Sheriff’s Department and works in Grand Forks, Pembina, and Walsh counties.
The team also has a lot of jurisdictional leeway. If another county or nearby agency requests assistance from the team, they are allowed to respond with approval from the sheriff.
Although the members of the Special Response Team work as a single unit, each of the members are outfitted by their respective departments. Budget-wise, each department finances and supports their individual team members. Podhradsky also noted that the Cavalier County Commissioners have been 100% supportive of the team and their mission.
According to Podhradsky, the team already has some very high-tech gear and equipment. The department applied for a federal program that permits the United States government to give away surplus military equipment and weapons to the receiving agency at no cost. The sheriff’s department and the SRT have acquired a fully armored humvee and a“throwbot”.
The fully armored humvee or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle came from a military base in Arizona. Podhradsky stated that when the tactical team received the vehicle, it was like new with only 500 miles on it.
According to the military.com’s website, humvees are used in all four branches of the military. The site explains “The vehicle is a lightweight, highly mobile, four-wheel-drive tactical vehicle that uses a common chassis to carry a wide variety of military hardware. It must perform in a wide variety of terrain, from deserts to jungles, for long periods of time with minimal maintenance.” In other words, the vehicle is perfect for any type of situation that the tactical team will encounter.
Podhradsky also said that the Grafton Ambulance Service purchased a new vehicle. They donated their old vehicle to the SRT. After painting and applying decals, the team uses the vehicle as a mobile command center when they are deployed. The vehicle is large enough to house communications that the team needs, no matter the situation.
The team also received a “throwbot” or throwable robot (the Recon Scout), that falls in the category of miniature unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). The team received the tiny remote controlled reconnaissance robot as a part of the military surplus program give away.
One great aspect of the robot is that it is designed to be thrown through windows or open doorways. The tiny machine’s unique construction makes it nearly indestructible. The entire bot weighs a little more than a pound. The dimensions are small, 7x3x1 inches.
The remote controlled micro-vehicle has two wheels and a center body resting between the wheels. The tiny machine has a camera, smaller than the diameter of a pencil, mounted on the body, that can transmit live video over 100 feet inside and over 300 feet outside.
Because the little robot cannot be tipped over, it works perfect in tight spots and around corners. The operator can see any danger that is hidden from a police officer’s view. The threat can be neutralized without needlessly endangering others’ lives.
The unit also has other tactical gear that it can use. They have non-lethal beanbag shot guns, flash-bang grenades, night vision goggles, and equipment that uses infrared technology. The team also uses laser sighting on their tactical weapons. When asked if the team needed any more equipment, Podhradsky replied, “The team is always needing updated equipment. They could also use more equipment that supports the tactical team mission.”