Niles/South Bend police join forces

Published 6:12 pm Thursday, February 2, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Sometimes, even the Niles City Police Department may need a little help.
On Wednesday, preparing for that help came in the form of a combined training session. Together, the South Bend's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and Niles' Special Response team ran morning drills in full gear at an unused facility in the Niles Industrial Park.
In order to keep the squads familiar with each other, Niles Chief of Police Rick Huff said the two groups train together three to four times a year. The Niles team itself drills eight to 16 hours a month.
Huff said the South Bend SWAT is the largest in the area and would respond to Niles if the situation was serious enough. Huff's squad is primarily designed to contain a critical incident and serve high-risk search warrants.
If there ever was a critical situation, such as a barricaded gunman, Huff said the Niles squad would contain the suspect and wait for the group from South Bend. Because the Indiana team is considered a full service SWAT team, they would be better equipped to enter the building. But, Huff said in the case of an incident with an active shooter on civilians, Niles would obviously enter the building.
Any sort of close contact fight would be bad news for a suspect considering the gear strapped around Huff and his crew. Each officer is equipped with a helmet, knee and sometimes elbow pads, and a form of body armor Huff called a heavy vest, which is made for larger weapon fire.
Officers on regular patrol are required to wear regular body armor, Huff said, but the equipment that the team suited up in Wednesday added at least another 60 pounds to each officer.
For almost 10 years, until 1998, Huff said Niles was without a Special Response team.
Thanks to help from a long line of businesses in the area, the unit was back up and running.
Glen Meek Auto Body Shop painted the SWAT truck that was donated by the Niles Utility Department and, Schrader Fabricating and Welding added storage inside the vehicle. SMR Communications then installed radio equipment and WNDU donated an extendable tower that holds a camera. A few of the many other contributors include the Hunter and Plym Foundations and Modern Realty.
All other costs to maintain the team has been covered by the City of Niles.