Jason Brown and Cam Norris are just two of the more than two-dozen members of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s Emergency Services Team (EST), more commonly known as the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team.
“I think everyone has their own reason for joining SWAT,” says Brown. “A lot of us played sports so we’re used to working in a team environment. When I left the military, I really enjoyed the aspect of working in a team environment, comparable to a squad or platoon-sized element. When I became a cop I enjoyed those similarities. The SWAT team is all team. You’re not doing anything by yourself.”
“I agree – it’s the team environment,” adds Norris. “I wrestled and ran in high school and college and, once I got out of college I owned an insurance agency for a few years. I realized it was pretty boring sitting behind a desk all day. I missed that team atmosphere, especially an intense team atmosphere with a group of individuals who are willing to work to better themselves constantly. We all want to be the best we can be.”
Detectives Brown and Norris are both full-time FWPD officers and volunteered to join the SWAT team. Sergeant Tim Hughes is the SWAT commander.
“The Fort Wayne SWAT team is the reason I came to Fort Wayne. I was an officer in Ohio, and I visited Fort Wayne and did a couple ride-alongs. We saw these guys running around with a patch on their sleeve that was different from everyone else’s and wondered, ‘Who are these guys?’ It was explained to us that those are SWAT team members,” Hughes says. “We were so impressed with the way they carried themselves and the way they did their job, and really wanted to be a part of that.”
It’s a demanding job; one that requires additional training, specialized gear and immense dedication. They’re on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“We average anywhere from 80 to 100 operations per year, and that covers your high-risk warrant services or callout situations. Those can be a rescue-type scenario where, for example, a person has barricaded himself inside with a gun and is refusing to come out, or things like hostage situations,” explains Hughes. “I’d say over the past eight years we’ve also started taking a more proactive approach to attending events like festivals where there are going to be a lot of people congregated. We’ll be stationed somewhere nearby, but out of sight so we’re not scaring people. We’re ready to respond if someone tries to target one of those events.”
The city of Fort Wayne provides most of the tools the members of the SWAT team need, but not all of them. That’s why a nonprofit organization called the S.A.V.E. (Standing Against Violence Everyday) Foundation was formed almost 10 years ago.
“There are times we get called out and it’s 20 below zero – we’re out in the elements and need warm weather gear,” says Norris. “That’s expensive and members of the team were having to eat those costs. The S.A.V.E. Foundation came about because we were looking for a way to help offset those costs.”
“I remember spending anywhere from $700 to $1,000 my first year,” recalls Brown. “All of that came out of my pocket.”
To raise money, S.A.V.E. hosts car shows and bowling events, as well as a golf outing that takes place each year during National Police Week.
“Some volunteers came forward and said, ‘We’re going to help you guys do this.’ They set up the fundraisers and they control the money,” explains Norris. “We figure out what people need and then we request funding for those things. That way it all stays very above-board.”
This year’s signature event is set for May 17 at Autumn Ridge Golf Course. Sponsors help underwrite the cost of the outing and foursomes or individuals pay a fee to participate.
“A lot of the guys on the team like myself participate and play, and that just gives us another chance to interact with the community,” Hughes says. “They don’t get to come out to our drug raids with us, but we golf with them and we can tell them what we do.”
Not only do the funds help pay for equipment, but the money can also be used for continuing education, which is essential for SWAT members.
Brown is thankful for the support S.A.V.E. provides. “From the time I started with this team 23 years ago to where we are today, we’re leaps and bounds ahead as far as personal training and equipment. Across the board, everything has gotten better,” he says.
Address: P.O. Box 80354, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46898