By Anne Eickstadt

ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Members of the Citizens Police Academy check out SWAT equipment as Sgt. Washburn answers their questions.


It took several trips for Officer Blankenship and Sergeant Washburn working together to bring in even a sample of the equipment that the SWAT Team uses for the class to see.

Sgt. Washburn has been a member of the Belvidere Police Dept. for 17 years. He quickly began displaying and explaining the SWAT Team equipment. He is very qualified to do so as he is the SWAT Team Commander.

The history of the SWAT Team in Belvidere began in 1991. Two officers made up the Belvidere Critical Response Team. One of them, David Ernest, was the hostage negotiator and the other, Officer John Coduto, was a sniper. (David Ernest moved up in rank and then moved onto the county payroll as Sheriff.)

In 2005, with eight members, it became the Belvidere Tactical Response Team (TRT). This caused some confusion as Dispatch sometimes referred calls to them that were meant for the fire department’s Trench Rescue Team (TRT).

By 2015, the team had added two Boone County Sheriff’s Deputies and three firefighters as medics. With several departments involved, the team’s name was officially changed to SWAT – Special Weapons And Tactics.

SWAT specializes in hostage rescues, barricaded situations, and assisting with high-risk search warrants where there is reason to believe that the suspect is heavily armed, will offer violence, or is a known gang member.

Sgt. Washburn went on to explain SWAT Team tactics and about some of the special training involved in being a SWAT member. He explained different types of ammunition and answered all questions. We saw a SWAT kit which each SWAT member can personalize and weighs 35 pounds; a gas mask; ballistic helmets; short barrel rifles; a 40 mm launcher; and a breach kit.

“SWAT is a thinking man’s job. It’s like tactical chess. We have to use tactics to outthink the suspects. We bring extra equipment and weapons with us to bring about the most peaceful solution we can. Each member of the SWAT Team has additional duties. I have two crisis negotiators. I have three snipers who are expert in utilizing precision rifles (99 percent of what snipers do is over-watch. They’re my eyes and ears.). I have SWAT members who have received extra training in using breaching equipment, others who are experts in chemical munitions, and those who are experts as shield operators.

“We have three Belvidere Firefighters who are SWAT Medics. Their primary mission is to take care of us. Members of the SWAT Team are all Type A and they don’t want to miss anything. They will not admit to being tired, hot, cold, or hungry. I tell the medics to keep a close eye on them to make sure they stay hydrated, slap a bandage on them if they get a scratch going through a window, or anything else. The medics also take care of any victims of violence that we find. If the suspects are injured in any way, then the medics can attend to them once we have made sure it is safe.

“Members of the SWAT Team undergo testing four times a year to make sure they are maintaining their physical skills. The physical requirements are not altered for females. These are the same tests that applicants take when they express interest in becoming a member of SWAT.

“An applicant to SWAT must be a member of the Belvidere Police Dept., the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, or the Belvidere Fire Dept. They must submit a letter of interest and complete the physical fitness tests and pass a multiple-choice questionnaire. If they pass those tests, they sit in front of the entire SWAT Team and answer ten typical interview questions. Every member of the team has a say in evaluating the new applicant. It is a lengthy and rigorous process.”

Sgt. Washburn no longer joins his team in the field. He stays with the officers to advise them of what is happening and what will or will not work in the circumstances. He knows the training his team has undergone and their skills and abilities. “He knows things we don’t,” Deputy Chief Wallace said. “His current position is extremely important. We have the same crime as Rockford and Chicago, just on a smaller scale.”

“Who would do this if we didn’t?” Sgt. Washburn said. “Do we rely on neighboring communities to handle our problems? I like to call my guys ‘silent professionals.’ We do not like to have our pictures taken. We go in. We get out.”

Sgt. Washburn then told us about the legal definitions and use of deadly force and the laws regarding both for civilians and for police officers.

Deadly force, also known as lethal force, is force that is likely to cause either serious bodily injury or death to another person. In most jurisdictions, the use of deadly force is justified only under conditions of extreme necessity as a last resort, when all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed.

Firearms, bladed weapons, explosives, and vehicles are among those weapons the use of which is considered deadly force. The use of non-traditional weapons in an offensive manner, such as a baseball bat, sharp pencil, tire iron or other, may also be considered deadly force.

Civilians have the right to self-defense, of self and of others against imminent threat or harm from a forcible felony. Forcible felonies include treason, murder, and the predatory sexual assault of a child, rape, robbery, arson, aggravated arson, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, or aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm.

The civilian use of force is justified if you reasonably believe such conduct is necessary to defend him/her self or another against the imminent use of unlawful force. For those with a concealed carry license, the gun can be legally used if someone is likely to cause great bodily harm or death, or someone is in the commission of a forcible felony.

The use of force can be used to protect your own dwelling if the intruder is violent, riotous, tumultuous, or you reasonably believe the intruder will commit a felony or to prevent violence. You must have something that leads you to believe that the other person has the intent to do great harm or to prevent the commission of a felony. Warn them in advance: “If you don’t get out, I will shoot you.”

If it is not your own property, only their own hired security, bouncers or guards, is allowed to protect the place. If you see someone about or doing harm, call 9-1-1 and let the police do their job. Even if you are on the Neighborhood Watch, it is not your job to tackle the intruders, it is your job to call the police and notify them.

“Nobody has to be a victim,” said Sgt. Washburn.

In the United States, the use of deadly force by sworn law enforcement officers is lawful when the officer reasonably believes the subject poses a significant threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others. The use of deadly force by law enforcement is also lawful when used to prevent…

For complete article, pick up the Oct. 4 Belvidere Republican.

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