St. Charles County SWAT team, negotiators work together in high-pressure training exercise

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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ST. CHARLES COUNTY (KMOV) -The St. Charles County SWAT team responds to dozens of high-risk calls every year, ranging from drug seizures to warrant executions and barricaded suspects.

The multi-jurisdictional team of more than 45 officers is accompanied by 16 crisis negotiators from departments across St. Charles County. Often, as the SWAT team is responding to the scene, work behind the scenes has already begun, thanks to the negotiators.

“The person inside is the one who really has the control,” said Lt. Pat Doering, commander of the St. Charles County Regional Crisis Negotiation Team. “Being in law enforcement, we’re used to being the ones in control, but really its the person inside because whatever their actions do determine our actions.”

The team was formed in 2005 and has evolved, along with technology, to keep officers and other innocent civilians as safe as possible.

“Back in the day, we used to have an old cord phone we’d have to wheel out and actually go up to the person’s house and tap into their phone because everyone had home phones back then,” he said. “Now, we can communicate with cell phones, Alexa, drones, really anything.”

One negotiator will work the phone, attempting to get the person in question to talk to them. Another negotiator is listening, taking notes and helping their counterpart on the phone. Other members will scour local media and talk with neighbors or those nearby to gather additional information they can pass along to the SWAT team.

“The most dangerous part is in the unknown, not knowing what someone is capable of or what possibility they’re armed, explosives, that sort of thing,” said Lt. Ryan Streck, commander of the St. Charles County SWAT Team. “That’s why we try to have as much intel as possible in these high-risk situations.”

On Wednesday, both SWAT team members and county negotiators worked together in a high-pressure training exercise, in which they responded to a home with a man wanted on murder charges. The man was said to be barricaded inside the home, possibly with family members and heavily armed.

“Back when we first started, we didn’t have that theory that everything can be talked out,” said Lt. Doering. “So the entire de-escalation concept has evolved over the years.”

However, every situation is different and Doering said outcomes vary.

“You make a bond, you’ve been talking to someone for five or six hours, you have a rapport going and then that person decides to take their life, that’s a lot of burden for that negotiator,” he said. “We’re cognizant of that and we make sure that negotiator knows it wasn’t anything they said, it’s that person’s ultimate decision and that’s what they decided to do.”

Every year, the St. Charles County SWAT team and some of the negotiators are deployed on 40 to 50 high-risk search and arrest warrants and average eight to 10 situations involving barricaded people.