The Regional Support Tactical Team (RSTT) is entering its fifth year of operation and team leader, Constable Jonathan Goertzen, says the unit is still going strong.
"It seems like each year that we continue our training and doing our operations throughout the communities we get better and the team gets closer. Support from the chiefs is obviously part of that, as well as the effort that all members put out each and every day towards the team," he said.
The RSTT is made up of officers from the Morden, Winkler, and Altona police services and rolls into action during high-risk situations such as hostage negotiation/rescue, armed and barricade scenarios, high-risk traffic stops and Controlled Drug and Substances Act and firearm-related search warrants.
According to an annual report, the team was deployed 8 times in 2018 for an overall increase of 2 operations over 2017.
Members executed 5 warrants under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, 2 firearms warrants and responded to 1 armed and barricaded situation.
Goertzen believes this increase in deployments is due to a pair of factors.
The first, he says, is thanks to the drug investigators within each local police service.
"When they do good work, that leads to us (the RSTT) to getting a search warrant and then getting those drugs off the streets as well as putting those individuals in jail," he explained. Those drugs include methamphetamine, cocaine, and illegal marijuana.
The team leader also noted situations that require a response from the RSTT tend to come in waves where members go from getting calls quite often to quiet spurts.
Meantime, Goertzen says a notable highlight in 2018 was some provincial funding that allowed for the purchase of Less Lethal (LL) equipment like gas masks, gas deployment options, LL shotguns and many other alternatives that increase the RSTT's capabilities to bring about peaceful resolutions to dangerous scenarios.
"It's a big feat and it would have cost the (police) services a lot of money on top of what they're already expected to put out as far as funding, so we're really blessed in that aspect."
As a result, two team members became certified LL instructors with the intent of training the rest of the team on the new equipment in 2019.
In addition, the entire team spent 2 days in Winnipeg last June training on bus/tubular assaults and hostage rescue tactics hosted by the Winnipeg Police Support Tactical Team. The RSTT also continued its training relationship with the RCMP ERT team. Members also continued with regular monthly training days throughout the past year working on tactics they have developed over the past four years.
As for 2019, Goertzen says the hope is to continue with increased training opportunities and expand the team's equipment. He noted there is a big need for a team vehicle that would transport members and the tactical equipment that is used in every deployment.