SPECIAL OPERATIONS SQUAD (SWAT)
Lt. Keith Debow
800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave.
The Knoxville Police Department's Special Operations Squad has been
in existence since 1976. It was originally conceived and developed
by Sgt. Gary Shaffer, who was selected as Squad Commander. He remained
in that position for ten years. Lt. James "Dog" Kennedy became the
new commander in 1986 and remained in that position until 2000 when
Deputy Chief Don Green assumed the commander position. Lt. Don Jones
assumed the commander position in 2002. In 2004 Lt. Doug Stiles assumed
the commander position. Lt. Keith Debow assumed command of the specialized unit in 2011.
The Special Operations Squad is utilized to respond to unique or high
risk situations in which specialized training and equipment is necessary.
Situations requiring such response may include, but not limited to:
Barricaded Suspects, Hostage Situations, Suicidal Individuals, Sniper
Situations, Mass Arrest Situations, High Risk Drug Raids and/or Warrant
Service, Civil Disorder, and Dignitary Protection. Major
criminal occurrences are incidents in which the lives of citizens
or officers is jeopardized by the criminal conduct of others and the
scope of the conduct requires prolonged or extensive efforts by the
Knoxville Police Department to resolve.
The present squad consists of officers who participate as members
in addition to their regular duties as police officers with the Department.
They are assigned to various functions, either as patrol officers,
supervisors, investigators, narcotics officers, or training officers.
The Squad consist of four distinct teams. While each officer is trained
and may serve as entry teams, there are two designated teams just
for high risk entries. These two teams rotate as either the primary
or secondary entry units. The third team serves in a containment function,
protecting the inner perimeter and are utilized to deliver chemical
agents, aid in the release of hostages, and taking the suspect into
custody in the case of surrender. They may also assist in the delivering
of negotiated items. The fourth team is comprised of the counter sniper
unit and observers, who provide intelligence and long range fire support.
They are assigned the function of outer perimeter protection.
Training to become a member of the Squad normally occurs yearly. To
be considered for the team, minimum standards must be reached consisting
of: 2 years service with the Department, no substantiated physical
or verbal abuse complaints, firearms qualifications requirements,
recommendation of present and previous supervisors, and physical qualifications.
The physical qualifications consist of: 3.1 mile run in 31 minutes,
50 pushups, 50 sit-ups, 8 pull-ups, a 1.5 mile run in 12 minutes,
and completion of an obstacle course. After passing these requirements,
the applicants must pass an interview board to be accepted to the
Basic Training. The training course is 7 days, 80 hours long for Departmental
personnel and 5 days / 45 hours long for members of outside agencies.
IS THE KNOXVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT'S SWAT TEAM, A FULL TIME SWAT TEAM?
No, the officers on the Squad are assigned to normal police department
functions. At present, there are two captains, four lieutenants serving
in the patrol districts as well as six sergeants. There are three
investigators, a motor officer, and the rest are assigned to the Operations
HOW OFTEN DO YOU TRAIN?
After the initial basic school, members train eight hours a month.
As additional training becomes available, officers attend training
offered by other agencies such as the Department of Defense, the F.B.I.,
Def-Tec, IACP, etc.
WHAT TYPE OF ACTIVITIES DOES YOUR UNIT RESPOND TO?
The primary response is to assist in the resolution of critical incidents.
The Squad also assists with the serving of high risk drug, search,
and felony warrants for the Narcotics and Investigative Units. Members
make up the Honor Guard of the Department, and serving in that capacity,
conduct the 21 gun salute and flag service at funerals and memorial
services. The members also make presentations to public groups such
as the Department's Citizen Police Academy, youth groups, and other
public demonstrations on their equipment and capabilities.