Vallejo considers giving up SWAT team

July 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The money problems in Vallejo are so bad its police department is thinking about getting rid of its SWAT team, however there might be some consequences of cutting into public safety.

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"Next thing I know I have several officers, two at the front door, with guns drawn," says Vallejo resident Lisa Cole.

Last month, Cole says Vallejo SWAT fired tear gas into her neighbor's window. He was armed, holding two women hostage, and after a four-hour stand-off it ended without injuries.

"There was no way it could have been handled without SWAT. Not with him barricaded in the house with two hostages and a gun," says Cole.

But with the city of Vallejo in bankruptcy, and the city staff recommending 16 police layoffs, the department is seriously considering dismantling its SWAT team to prevent further layoffs.

"One of the primary costs of SWAT is training; to get the people away from their regularly duty assignment in order to train. It is quite expensive to train and equip a team," says Vallejo Police Department Lt. Eric Mortenson.

Vallejo Police say the Solano County Sheriff's SWAT team would be called in to cover for them in situations like this one.

"It would have been a long time before we could get them on scene and get them in place. And again, they have not trained in our city, so they would be at a disadvantage," says Lt. Mortenson.

This is a political hot potato. In fact, no council members returned ABC7's calls on Tuesday, and the mayor refused to comment. The police department says it's being accused of using scare tactics to protect its jobs.

Currently, the police department says it's only considering the elimination of its SWAT team and it has a lot to consider.

"Anytime you cut down on police it emboldens criminals. The question is, are they going to see this as an opportunity or not?" says Vallejo resident Thomas Perry.

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