Athens City Cops to Join Sheriff’s Special Response Team

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ATHENS, Ohio – Athens City Council has voted to allow five members of the Athens City Police Department to join the Athens County Sheriff’s Department Special Response Team. The decision followed a presentation by Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith and City Police Chief Tom Pyle.

“I think this is a very manageable,” Councilman Kent Butler said following the presentation. “This is a win-win and would overall benefit the community.”

What is the Measure?

Sheriff Rodney Smith and Chief of Police Tom Pyle present Special Response Team Proposal to City Council Monday night.

The Athens County Sheriffs Special Response Team  is a tactical unit charged with carrying out high-risk responsibilities such as serving high-risk warrants, negotiating with armed barricaded persons, or barricaded suicidal persons; taking part in drug-eradication operations, and executing wanted persons [warrant] round ups. The team has been comprised of members of the Athens County Sheriffs Office and the Nelsonville Police Department. With Monday’s action, officers with the Athens Police Department can become members on a volunteer basis.

Questions by City Council

A number of questions were raised by council members following the presentation: How the city would staff the team, the number of officers involved,  and the amount of training required for Athens police officers joining the unit. A major question involved the cost of adding Athens city police officers to the team.

“It’s eight hours of overtime, possibly 12 hours of overtime,” Pyle said. “I don’t know the exact number of officer’s overtime rate, so I would ballpark it at around $400 per month an officer.”

“When we deploy the SRT team, our commander knows that the clock is ticking,” Smith said. “We don’t want to spend all of this overtime money, so once the team secures the scene, they are excused – their job would be done, as soon as the scene is secure they will go home.”

Councilman Peter Kotses asked if joining the special response team could jeopardize staffing levels within the department, or if there would cases when the city would not be able to commit officers when needed.

“The responses would be handled by me,” Pyle said. “We would prioritize police coverage for the city of Athens first. We would not send officers that are on duty unless they can be released by the shift supervisor.”

City Council asking Sheriff Smith and Chief of Police Pyle questions about their proposed measure.
City Council asking Sheriff Rodney Smith and Chief of Police Tom Pyle questions about the proposal.

Next Steps

A pool of five specially-trained officers would be selected to join the team. Pyle said that by having five officers to chose from would give the city a better chance to support the team when needed.

“Last year two incidents where SRT was called occurred right here in Athens,” Mayor Steve Patterson said. “I support this, I think it is a good move and manageable on the cost end of things.”