Santa Paula Times

(Left) The Santa Paula Police Department Special Response Team team recently visited the Pitchess Honor Farm/Wayside Jail in Castaic for training that covered a variety of topics and exercises over the 30 hours of instruction. Above the SRT prepares to deploy. Below the SRT Team carefully enters a building during the training excercise.

SPPD SRT uses new equipment to train with legendary LASD SWAT

October 23, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

Santa Paula Police got to break in some new, high-tech equipment during a recent multi-day training session with the legendary Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department SWAT team. And, some of the equipment the SPPD now has was garnered with proceeds from the Moonlight at the Ranch celebration, the annual event that puts the “fun” in fundraising.

The SPPD team visited the Pitchess Honor Farm/Wayside Jail in Castaic for the training that covered a variety of topics and exercises over the 30 hours of instruction, working with what SPPD Senior Range Master David Manning said is a top unit.

SPPD Police Chief Steve McLean, a LASD veteran who retired from the sheriff’s department in 2012 and joined the local police force in July, arranged the training.

“We really thank Chief McLean and his connections,” said Manning. “Otherwise, training like this would not have been possible. Those SWAT teams we trained with were very gracious, they treated us like equals and they’re the best-trained SWAT team in the world.

“For them to threat us so well,” he noted, “was very reassuring.”

Also reassuring was that the SPPD had plenty of modern technology to train with, courtesy of a Santa Paula Police & Fire Foundation grant supplemented by SPPD budget funding.

Manning said the SPPD team - known locally as the Special Response Team or SRT - now has specialized bulletproof vests that are specific to such high risk police work that team members used for the first time while training with the LASD.

Inside are special ballistic panels around a foot-square that protect the chest and back that were part of the purchase made possible by the foundation.

The original panels said Manning were a much heavier weight, impeded movement and were uncomfortable.

“We also have new ballistic helmets.... our helmets like our vests had exceeded their warranty and we also wore those for the first time.”

A bonus is the new communication headsets that “fit perfectly into the new helmets that protect our hearing from loud noises, such as gunshots,” while at the same time offers amplification of ambient sound.

Manning said the latest technology allows hearing “A pin drop, or a whisper.... the unit identifies the source of the sound,” and automatically muffles loud noises as well as raises the volume on soft sounds.

The headsets allow those responding to tense situations to “Speak to one another through our radios.... Our team can whisper and talk to each other and no one can hear us but us.”

All the new equipment had a hefty price tag but the benefits, noted Manning, “Are priceless to the safety of our officers.”

Santa Paula Police & Fire Foundation Board President Al Guilin noted that the $16,000 used to purchase the SPPD equipment reflects the mission of the foundation.

“Primarily we give money to police and fire almost exclusively for such things as equipment that would facilitate and expedite their work in a safe manner. Such funds  are beyond what the city can or does provide and it helps makes their lives easier. That primarily is the focus of the foundation.”

Guilin said funding is culled from board members as well as private and corporate donations but, “Major funds also come each year from the Moonlight at the Ranch celebration, that’s our big fundraiser and it’s a lot of fun!” 

McLean said he was pleased with the training the SPPD SRT received and “very surprised” at the high marks given the local response team by their LASD SWAT counterparts.

“I was very surprised, they don’t just throw compliments out there, especially for a part-time team such as ours. As a former SWAT guy I was very pleased at how they move, they’re pretty good.”

The financial support of the foundation is vital to the program: “We probably couldn’t do it without them. It’s not only the money.... each one of those board members really do have a soft spot in their heart for law enforcement, they want them to be safe, they want our department to have the equipment they need to do the job.”

The foundation, said McLean, “Raises a lot of money and if we need it they give it to us. I have a lot of respect for and appreciate each of them.”

No doubt the foundation would be pleased at the feedback given to the SPPD team after their approximately 30-hour training sessions.

Manning thinks the SPPD SRT was a surprise to the LASD SWAT.

“I don’t believe the teams that were training us expected a small town team to be as squared away as we were.... they complimented us,” on the various skills displayed by the SPPD group.

“They were just impressed,” said Manning. “I’m not saying we didn’t learn things and they didn’t give us tips, but I don’t think the Santa Paula team was what they expected.”

In fact, the Santa Paula team of about a dozen personnel was invited back to use the LASD shooting range in the future.

“That invitation alone,” noted Manning, “is a great compliment.”