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SWAT team takes center stage at ‘Night to Unite’

The Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office and Park Rapids Police Department were joined by local first responders, the fire department, emergency medical services personnel and more.

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Park Rapids Police officers and Hubbard County sheriff's deputies involved with Wadena-Hubbard SWAT team demonstrated their capabilities in a mock apprehension. In this scenario, K-9 Jet and Sgt. Rob Gilmore from the Park Rapids Police Department participate.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise
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“Night to Unite,” a nationwide event that promotes camaraderie between law enforcement and community members, was held Tuesday, Aug. 2 in Heartland Park.

The Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office and Park Rapids Police Department were joined by local first responders, the fire department, emergency medical services personnel and more.

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North Memorial Health's helicopter lifts off from Heartland Park after giving visitors a quick tour.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise

Local members of the Wadena-Hubbard County Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team demonstrated its ability to respond to critical incidents.

The Wadena County SWAT team formed in 1990, with Hubbard County joining in 2002.

The joint SWAT team comprises deputies from both sheriff's offices, along with police officers from Menahga, Sebeka, Wadena, Staples and Park Rapids.

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Since the two counties merged, the SWAT team has been used to execute high-risk, narcotic-related search warrants, such as methamphetamine labs and marijuana growers, arrest warrants, hostage rescues and barricaded, armed subjects.

The team is equipped with two armored vehicles and two vans that are used to transport equipment and team operators. The vans can also be used as a command center, in case of a lengthy operation or for other emergencies.

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Hubbard County sheriff's sergeant Tony Petrie describes features of the bite suit worn by deputy sheriff Spencer Stack. Petrie also explained the components of his SWAT uniform.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise

Sgt. Tony Petrie also took time to describe the features of his olive-drab green SWAT uniform.

“Starting at the top, we have a bullet-proof vest. It has hard plates in the front and back. I’m carrying a rifle across the front of me. These are different holsters for magazines, handcuffs, my firearm. I have a pistol,” he said.

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The Wadena-Hubbard County Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) utilizes this armored vehicle. A 2009 Land Systems OMC RG31, it is a retired military vehicle that was donated by the federal government to the county in 2019. It was worth about $500,000 at the time.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise

Petrie said SWAT trains every two weeks for five hours.

“Typically, our SWAT team is called out when our patrol officer shows up to a scene of a violent offender or something that needs special weapons or tactics, then we call our SWAT team with extra ballistic gear, gas deployment, shields, K-9s and additional tools to keep everybody safe,” he said.

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Ace, a K-9 with the sheriff's office, shows how he captures someone fleeing from the law.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise

K-9s Jet and Ace eagerly strutted their stuff on Tuesday.

Sgt. Troy Christenson, who emceed the demos, said, “These dogs are amazing, and to be honest, these officers are amazing.”

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Jet, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, participated in the SWAT action with handler Sgt. Rob Gilmore of the Park Rapids Police Department.

Ace demonstrated an article search, among other talents. He is a four-year-old cross between a German shepherd and Belgian Malinois. His handler is sheriff’s deputy Craig Kritzeck.

Petrie described the bite suit used for K-9 training. The coverall and jacket are “really, really thick and padded.”

“These are designed so if the dog comes up and bites, they can grab a chunk of this out, hold onto this and shake it, like you saw him do here,” he explained.

K-9s are trained for “target acquisition” or “target lock.” When they see someone fleeing, the dog apprehends, bites and holds until the handler calls them off.

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The Hubbard County Posse greets Night to Unite guests.
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise
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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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