Combined SWAT team considered by Harford's towns

Harford County's three municipal police departments are discussing formation of a joint SWAT team that their chiefs say will help them better pool resources and respond quicker to dangerous situations.

The idea was first discussed publicly during an Aberdeen City Council work session on Monday.

Having a multijurisdictional team would allow each department to take advantage of the skills of "highly trained individuals," Aberdeen's police chief, Henry Trabert, said told the mayor and city council members.

Aberdeen police officials invited Bel Air and Havre de Grace officers to join in creating the municipal SWAT team, according to Trabert.

Bel Air Town Administrator Chris Schlehr said during a town commissioners work session Tuesday that officials are finalizing an inter-agency police services agreement that will allow several of their police officers to apply for positions on the team.

Schlehr said they hope to present the agreement during the town commissioners' August meeting, but Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola provided some details during Tuesday's work session.

"In addition to the compact that we already have, that allows us to make arrests in different jurisdictions, this will also allow us to [perform] tactical situations in other towns," he said of the proposed agreement.

Matrangola said one Bel Air officer already serves as a hostage negotiator on the Harford County Sheriff's Office Tactical Response Team. That team is one of several specialized units that fall under the Sheriff's Office's Special Operations Division, according to its website.

The Bel Air officers who wish to qualify for the "multi-jurisdictional" municipal SWAT team must pass fitness and shooting requirements and complete a two-week tactical officer course, the chief explained.

Those who make the team will "bring that know-how back to their own squad and that extra training," Matrangola said.

The chief said "they'll all be highly motivated and highly trained."

Matrangola said the additional SWAT team would allow local law enforcement to respond to "multiple events going on in Harford County," and not have to call units from outside the county.

Representatives of the Havre de Grace Police Department could not be reached Thursday for comments on the proposal.

Aberdeen's Trabert told his city council he has a draft memorandum of understanding, but it has not yet been approved by any of the municipal attorneys.

In 2006, the municipalities entered a mutual aid agreement with Harford County, he said.

"Our team has been so effective in the city of Aberdeen," Trabert noted, explaining that special operations detectives immediately tackle an issue when the department hears about contraband, drugs or other concerns.

"As soon as they have probable cause, we don't like to wait around. When we see an issue, we take care of it immediately," Trabert explained. "The other jurisdictions have seen us do this and they know we can take those problems out of a neighborhood in a matter of days."

"When you are pulling from two other jurisdictions, it's a lot easier, you have more manpower," he said.

Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young replied: "I think this is a good idea and I do support it."

Trabert added that it makes sense in difficult economic times for departments to pull together to reach the same goal.

"Economically it's just a sound process," he said.

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