Monday, December 17, 2012
Community Relations Event Pays a Dividend
Every July, the Roswell, Ga., Police Department’s SWAT Team is an invited participant at World Harvest Church’s “Honor Our Heroes” event. This public safety and military appreciation gathering offers a picnic lunch and includes equipment displays and demonstrations from various law enforcement, fire, and military resources. At the July 2011 gathering, World Harvest’s Pastor Mirek Hufton approached the team operators and asked about the white “bread truck” that was used by the SWAT team. Pastor Hufton asked if there was anything the church could do to enhance its value to the team. This chance comment set into motion the chain of events that made the project a reality.
1998 Grumman Olson “Bread Truck”
In December 2005, a Roswell resident donated a 1998 Grumman Olson “bread truck” to the Roswell PD so that it could be converted into a SWAT truck. Attempts to fund the conversion project over the years failed for a variety of reasons. Despite good intentions and some limited community donations, money, planning and construction expertise were factors that kept the project on hold. Over the years, the truck became a joke around the PD and most people had accepted that nothing would ever come of the vehicle.
RV Industrial Expert/Devoted LE Advocate Zack Rowland
As news of Pastor Hufton’s offer of assistance to aid Roswell SWAT spread within the congregation one of their members, Zack Rowland, stepped forward to lend his considerable RV construction experience to the project. Rowland has family members in law enforcement and he quickly established a strong relationship with two of the SWAT operators: Zachary Frommer and Trevor Primo.
These two officers had been working on the conversion project on their own and knew the vehicle inside and out. During the first few meetings, the officers realized that their vision of the SWAT truck was going to be “super-sized” due to Rowland’s incredible imagination. Whatever layout needs the officers came up with, Rowland was confident he could not only do it, but also offered an improved approach. “Best” was defined as being more efficient, more ergonomic and more cost effective, but Rowland was insistent on keeping the “cool factor” way up. The three worked long hours to balance functionality with the “Hollywood-style" ideas that Rowland and Pastor Hufton had in mind. Rowland guaranteed a few surprises that the team would not know about until the unveiling.
World Harvest Church Members “SWAT Offering” Raises $25,000
While Rowland, Frommer and Primo were finalizing their design, Pastor Hufton was promoting the project to his congregation and money was pouring in. Once the money was there, Rowland started work in early 2012. Knowing that it was the best way to see his vision through, Rowland did nearly all the work himself with occasional help from his network of family and friends. Rowland was pushing hard to complete the renovation by July 1, 2012, in time for the church’s annual “Honor Our Heroes” event.
The bread truck began to take shape as a vehicle meant for the SWAT operators themselves, and not necessarily just as a command vehicle or transport vehicle. Features include two oversized air conditioner units, extra wide benches for comfort and increased storage, removable tables and a kitchen area with high counter tops offering extra storage space.
A slide-out large flat screen TV connected to an all-in-one media center with DVD player, connections for an MP3 player and computer, and an antenna to receive HD television. There are hooks, overhead bins and smart storage options for team equipment, weapons and personal gear. The truck was built to be the perfect place for operators to get relief from the elements and recharge.
Roswell SWAT: Trained & Committed but Funding Challenged
The Roswell PD and its 140 sworn officers are responsible for a 42-square mile area in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. The 20-officer SWAT team is a part-time unit that serves high-risk warrants and responds to all critical incidents in the area. The team had never had any kind of substantial vehicle to carry its equipment or personnel or serve as a “command post” for extended operations.
Concurrent with the renovation, Roswell Police Chief Dwayne Orrick had been working with the nearby cities of Alpharetta and Milton to form a combined SWAT team. On large-scale critical incidents, all three teams would eventually be deployed so a consolidated team made operational and financial sense. This unit would have more than 40 operators, team leaders, snipers, explosive breachers and negotiators and would drastically improve response times and resource capability. City officials from all three jurisdictions signed the agreements and “North Fulton SWAT” was born.
The SWAT Truck Debut
On July 1, 2012, came with great anticipation the World Harvest Church’s “Honor Our Heroes” event. Rowland arrived very early and covered the truck with two large parachutes secured with tent stakes to ensure no one got a sneak peak. During the 11:00 service, Pastor Hufton presented the truck to his congregation and the North Fulton SWAT operators. SWAT members were given the honor of pulling the parachutes off to unveil the vehicle with great fanfare.
For the next few hours, the congregation, local officials, media, and SWAT operators toured the vehicle. There was universal acclaim and astonishment at the workmanship, imagination and effort that Rowland put into the vehicle, bringing it to life from an old, empty shell. The surprises included lines of blue LED undercarriage lighting, blue pearl in the paint that shines when the sun strikes it, and a rear bumper sticker stating, “A portion of this arrest sponsored by World Harvest Church.” The new black truck was emblazoned with green “North Fulton SWAT” graphics, with the names of all three cities underneath and the new patch designed by team operators.
The truck’s first official outing was for the team’s regular training exercise two days later. The vehicle worked just as designed while also providing a comfortable place to escape the high heat and humidity. The truck will serve North Fulton SWAT and the citizens of Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton well for years to come. The total value of the donation including cost of materials and labor is estimated at $150,000. Total cost to the taxpayers of Roswell was $0.00.
Funding Scarce? Evaluate Your Own Community Resources for Assistance!
Many law enforcement agencies have been, and are, facing serious funding challenges to “protect and serve.” Budgets have been tightened and then tightened even tighter. Critical financial priorities have to be reviewed and optional equipment needs postponed. Roswell (Ga.) Police Department faced the same frustrations wanting to have better equipment and World Harvest Church was a willing–and ready–community partner wanting to help safeguard its neighbors. The authors advocate that our fellow law enforcement officers would benefit from reaching out and seeking similar assistance. Citizens eagerly want to help but need invitation and specific goals that they can review and approve. Good luck!
City of Roswell, Georgia, Police Department
Roswell, Georgia Police Department is a 140-sworn officer law enforcement agency protecting a population exceeding 90,000 citizens. Money Magazine ranked the City of Roswell as one of the top 20 best cities to live in the eastern United States. The Roswell PD has accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
Zachary Frommer and Trevor Primo are Master Police Officers (MPO) for the Roswell, Georgia, Police Department where they have worked for nine years and thirteen years, respectively. Both have served as SWAT operators for six years and are Explosive Breachers for North Fulton SWAT. MPO Frommer is currently assigned to the Community Relations Unit and MPO Primo is assigned to Morning Watch Uniform Patrol. Officer Frommer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-640-4465.