The Moose Jaw Police Service has been thinking about more effective ways to uphold public safety and officer safety.
They decided that implementing a Tactical Response Team known as TRT or TAC into their services would be an effective solution to dealing with high-risk situations.
It also now makes Moose Jaw a resource available to assist with high-risk situations in other municipalities like Regina and rural areas surrounding the community.
The Tactical Response Team is a branch of the Critical Incident Team. Whenever there is a critical incident in Moose Jaw, there are many teams who come together to help resolve it. The situation usually start with front line policing, patrol. If it's deemed a critical incident the TAC unit works alongside Crisis Negotiators (CNT), drone pilots and Canine handlers, to help safely resolve the incident. These specialty units take a lot of training and resources to ensure they are functioning properly, when called upon.
All members of these specialty units work in other areas of the police service and have other duties as well. According to Staff Sgt. Taylor Elder, in a small service, like MJPS, it is important for the members to have extra duties, as they don't have the specialized full time teams other services may have.
This is Moose Jaw’s first ever TAC unit and it started developing in 2020 when Staff Sgt. Taylor Elder and Cst. Rodney Zoerb travelled to Regina to participate in Regina’s basic SWAT training.
“We just want some people with better training. That was the real driver. We just needed some better training and more proficiency with the tools that we’re currently using and then we want to be able to expand that into some other options as well,” says Zoerb.
Zoerb and Elder then took the knowledge and skills they gained from basic training and brought it back to Moose Jaw where they designed their own two-week TAC training course.
“What we tried to do was basically mirror what I had experienced in Regina with their basic SWAT training and kind of blended it in to a Moose Jaw angle because we knew we were starting from ground zero,” says Zoerb.
Their training course also acted as a selection process. The officers who participated in the basic training course were scored and the ones with the highest scores at the end of the course made the unit.
“They call it the basic training; it might be the basic training for tactical response but there’s nothing basic about it. It’s very physical, mental, and emotional. There’s a lot of things going on there. To put it in perspective, in those two weeks with the basic training, I lost ten pounds,” says Cst. Reggie Pawliw, a member of the TAC unit.
The first week of the training course was in Moose Jaw and then the second week was in Regina.
Overall, the training consisted of intense physical tests that involved a timed 1.5 mile run, rowing, sit-ups, pushups, pull ups and much more with no break.
Then it went into tactical training which consists of scenario and strategy work including weapon and tool training, high-risk vehicle stops, building breaches, and more.
“We’re trying to make sure that as you’re exhausted as you're doing all this stuff that you can still perform and function your tasks... It was a large test on how to function under stress,” says Zoerb.
Pawliw adds “If you’re tired and exhausted, can you still hear what’s going on, can you still focus and multitask? That’s one of the big components of that.”
The training ended with an interview process.
The course ended in April of 2022 and six other officers apart from Elder and Zoerb became members of the unit.
However, training doesn’t stop there. The officers that are apart of the TAC unit are continuously refreshing their training to keep their skills up to date and to keep up with the fast-paced advancements in tactical training.
The unit responds to high-risk calls that include weapons, building barricades, hostages, and executing warrants.
They carry advanced equipment like clothing that allows more mobility, ballistic helmets with an attached telecom system, more advanced armour, breaching equipment, and their usual weapons and tools along with more advanced artillery. All of their equipment combined can weigh anywhere between 50 to 100lbs on their person.
They are currently looking into expanding their resources and purchasing less lethal weaponry like shotguns that shoot softer or bean bag rounds.
Zoerb emphasized that the TAC unit is a piece of the puzzle within the Moose Jaw Police Service. They work alongside very closely with the K9, negotiating, and drone units.
The officers are also extremely grateful to the Regina Police Service for allowing them to participate in their training.