Island police this week announced the new Martha’s Vineyard Tactical Response Team, an elite, highly trained group of officers that will assist the police departments during critical incidents such as hostage situations, searches for armed subjects and civic disorder.
The team was designed to provide a flexible and effective response to unconventional and high-risk law enforcement incidents. The team operates under the premise that a select group of highly motivated and well conditioned officers can be more effective and safely used during certain incidents than conventionally trained and equipped patrol officers.
The origin of new tactical team dates back to 2006 when the Martha’s Vineyard Law Enforcement Council — made up of Island police chiefs, county sheriff Mike McCormack, and state police Lieut. Robert Moore — unanimously voted to create a regional response to critical incidents.
Sheriff McCormack said the team is capable of stabilizing critical situations until the Massachusetts state police special tactical operations team can arrive on the scene.
“There is no question the Vineyard needs a tactical response team. [This team] will be equipped and trained to respond a wide range of critical situations that could happen here. Similar teams are being assembled in communities across the country,” he said.
State Police were consulted and the team was created in the spring of 2007 under the leadership of Edgartown officer James Craig, a former military officer with training in police tactical operations.
Oak Bluffs Lieut. Timothy Williamson, also a military veteran with tactical training, was selected as the team’s executive officer tactical commander.
Policies and mutual aid agreements were drafted to govern the team, which is made up of volunteer officers who completed a rigorous selection process last spring.
Officers were evaluated on physical fitness, firearms proficiency, ability to work in stressful situations and suitability for working within a team environment. Basic training was conducted by officers from the Los Angeles police department SWAT team, and team members have subsequently received advanced training in several tactical disciplines.
Incidents which the team may respond to include barricaded suspects, service of high-risk warrants, searches for armed subjects, hostage situations and negotiations, active shooters, sniper situations, VIP protection and civil disorder.
A press conference will be held on Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. at the Oak Bluffs police department to explain the team’s function in detail and answer questions.