Pittsburgh’s police are exploring a controversial plan to remodel their Special Emergency Response Team by eliminating its half-dozen full-time members and returning them to street patrol, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Team members are worried that without the unit being overseen by a core of full-time officers who have spent years developing expertise in handling specialized tactical situations, such as hostage crises or barricaded gunmen, it will lose its edge. The unit responds to highly dangerous situations, employs weaponry such as flash-bang grenades and practices tactical entries into buildings.
Eliminating a half-dozen full-time SERT officers would likely be hailed as a good idea by some high-ranking police supervisors, who believe Pittsburgh is not big enough to maintain more than one or two dedicated officers. Pittsburgh police have been functioning below their budgeted strength of 900 officers; Mayor Bob O’Connor has made it a priority to increase the number of officers responding to 911 calls.