NORTH FULTON, Ga. — You wouldn't think an old bread truck would ever amount to much more than simply a bread truck. But it turns out there is a new life to such a beast – as one of the new SWAT trucks for the newly formed North Fulton SWAT team.
The truck was donated to the Roswell Police Department several years ago, said SWAT member Zac Frommer, and refurbished with help from private citizens and the World Harvest Church in Roswell.
The improvements would have cost about $25,000, Frommer said.
Meanwhile, Alpharetta has recently purchased a $192,000 state-of-the-art SWAT bus with drug-seizure funds so the North Fulton team will be able to get deployed in a hurry.
This reflects the punch the recent merging of the SWAT teams of Milton, Roswell and Alpharetta has created. Milton and Alpharetta have enjoyed a joint unit for several years.
The joint team will consist of 22 officers from Roswell, 16 from Alpharetta and 9 from Milton. But not all members are expected to turn out for any one call. The usual callout for a SWAT response is 16 officers including one EMT.
Despite the public view of heavily-armed teams breaking down doors, most incidents require only a couple officers to respond. The typical call is for serving a dangerous warrant.
Since the need for SWAT resources is relatively light in North Fulton, the team members are drawn from serving officers who will double up in a SWAT callout. When the call comes in for a SWAT response, officers respond whether they are on duty or not.
“The national statistics indicate about a third of officers on deployment won't respond,” said Roswell Police Chief Dwayne Orrick. “They're either on vacation, training or on duty at another call.
“This allows us to make sure there is a better response.”
The cities of Johns Creek, Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have their own team. When there is a major event requiring a SWAT response, such as a standoff, it can require officers to be at the scene for hours on end in full turn-out gear. By having two teams jointly cooperating, the units can easily switch shifts to relax.
“We can have one team that can respond and then another than can relieve them,” explained Alpharetta Police Spokesman George Gordon. “It's very tiring for them to be out there in all that gear.”
Orrick said the teams of North Fulton have traditionally worked together when they needed to. He pointed to a standoff last year in Roswell with a shooter who took hostages. The standoff lasted so long that Roswell's team – in full turnout gear – was getting fatigued. So members of Alpharetta's team were called in for relief.
“This puts more assets on the street,” said Roswell Police Spokesman Lt. James McGee. “We can pool resources and assets, putting more people into the types of situations where you need them.”
The Roswell SWAT bus in now equipped with two air conditioning units, the truck has plenty of space inside for weapons bays, storage of uniforms and gear, as well as a small kitchenette. The benches are wide enough that a person can lie down.
The value of all this, Frommer said, is that team members can retire to the bus during an active operation and rest, cool off and coordinate strategy in safety.
“We've never had a vehicle where we can put all our gear in,” Frommer said.
Previously, officers would have to carry their gear in patrol cars, or fetch them from either their home or the police headquarters, which takes time.
“This gives us a quicker response time,” he said. “We just grab the keys and go.”
Perhaps more important than all the bells and whistles is that the truck is the first to sport the “North Fulton SWAT” logo.