San Diego SWAT has to rely on private funding

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – They go into the most difficult and tense situations, to capture the most dangerous criminals.

Many of those criminals are armed, dealing drugs, wanted for assault, and sometimes murder.

The SWAT unit of the San Diego Police Department is at the ready 24-7, with a sergeant and six officers on every shift.

But they have to rely on outside private funding to pay for the tools they need to do their jobs.

Why?

“We don’t have the budget to keep up with the equipment,” said Mike Dewitt.

“As mayor, I’m working really hard on additional money for our police department. And the work that this community group is doing, Citizens For SWAT, helps in the effort,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

The non-profit group Citizens For SWAT was formed ten years ago to supplement what the city is able to provide.

“Back when we went on a ride along we were in a 1984 bread truck that broke down on the way to serving a warrant,” said Tom Schwiebert of Citizens For SWAT.

In the decade since, Citizens For SWAT has raised one million dollars through events like their golf tournament.

They replaced that bread truck with a rapid deployment vehicle that can load up to 22 people in full gear.

“We’re just a gap filler, we like to equip them with sophisticated equipment, to not only keep themselves safe but citizens safe as well,” said Schwiebert.

“Our shields are outdated, getting obsolete, worn and beat up from so many operations,” said Dewitt.

The SWAT requests from this year’s tournament?

15 shields at a cost of $55,000.

A new turret for the Bearcat armored vehicle at $26,000.

A new windshield and new tires for the Bearcat, after a pipe bomb did some damage and the tires were shot at.

“It’s a huge expense when we start talking about money for an officer. What amount do we put on an officer’s life to keep them safe?” asked Dewitt.

Siegel’s Strategic Operations in Kearny Mesa provides hyper realistic training for military and police, and San Diego SWAT uses their outside and inside facilities.

The members of the SWAT unit are called into action a few times a month on average, but they train constantly.

It is intense training that gets them ready for the real thing.

“Be prepared for dogs, people who are going to be cooperative or hostile, want to attack us or run from us… we have to be prepared,” said Lt. Mark Saunders.

The SWAT unit has to keep up with ever changing technology, and robots that go into buildings first can cost up to $25,000 apiece.

“If it’s an empty place we don’t want to send gas, waste hours of time on an empty house we’re not sure the person’s there, throw a robot in, clear it,” said Lt. Mark.

Another recent necessary upgrade to this SWAT unit?

Military style vests, complete with trauma kits to save lives, thanks again to private money.

There is something pretty big on their wish list.

A second armored vehicle to replace the hand-me-down from the military that has blown two engines in one year. It’s retired.

The members of the SWAT unite remain at the ready, to keep San Diego safe. They are just thankful the money comes from somewhere.

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