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SWAT team

I’m not sure about this.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is starting an elite “high-risk” squad with the aim of developing it into a full-fledged SWAT team.

Maj. Bob Doguim began soliciting applications for the eight-member team two weeks ago, just about the time his boss, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, was preparing a budget plan that would slash department spending by $47 million in the year that begins March 1.

The high-risk unit’s first hires will come from the existing ranks as the deputies’ union is sending out a newsletter criticizing the sheriff for what it calls “reduced boots on the ground.”

Doguim said that because the start-up costs for equipment, training and vehicles are covered by a $1 million federal grant and the unit’s members will be drawn from existing deputies, it will not necessitate additional spending, at first. But he acknowledged that replacement equipment, future training and, perhaps, even backfilled positions vacated by the deputies who join the team could cost general fund money in the future.

The Sheriff’s Office typically summons the Houston Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, unit for high-risk situations. The FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety also have SWAT units that can deploy in Harris County.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that such a unit will cost general fund money in the future. I can’t imagine a realistic scenario where it wouldn’t. Putting aside questions about the national trend of militarizing the police, given that Harris County has gone this long without its own SWAT team one wonders why we need one now. Sure, it’s possible there could be “multiple incidents around the city”, as Maj. Dogium suggests, but that seems like a fairly low-probability event, for which we’ll need to pay for and maintain a full-time unit and its equipment. I’m not sold on the value proposition here. I’m willing to hear more, but my starting position is that we’re fine as things are now.

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  1. Joe White says:

    I wonder how often HPD has had to use
    in the three years since I took this? And at what cost to the taxpayers?