From left, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team members, Capt. Billy Richey, Capt. John Bishop, team leader Zack Wilbanks, Timmy Oswalt and Warren Smith. Not pictured, Brad Jernigan. The six members recently completed a two-week nationally recognized training.

Six members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team recently completed a two-week training that not only makes the unit nationally recognized but also gives them knowledge to train fellow team members and deputies.

“SWAT is special weapons and tactics, and it intimidates people by the name and appearance but you actually use that to your advantage as a deterrent. If somebody is barricaded in a situation, then we may be able to get him to give up by our appearance and our armored vehicle. It’s to better help the citizens and Monroe County. That’s what we’re here for,” said Capt. Billy Richey.

He was joined by team leader Zack Wilbanks, Capt. John Bishop, Warren Smith, Timmy Oswalt and Brad Jernigan for the training held in Arkansas and DeSoto County. They are all members of the Mississippi Tactical Officers Association.

Wilbanks, Bishop and Richey pitched the idea to Crook for training to better than community. Through the training, they’re equipped to provide mutual aid in large-scale scenarios if needed.

“Everybody in the north part of the state – Southaven, DeSoto County, Memphis, Germantown – have all been through that training. We could show up there if Memphis called and wouldn’t have to train since we’ve been through the same training and could all work as one team at a big event or if something catastrophic happens,” Richey said.

Completion of the training is unique for a department the size of the MCSO.

“This is something you’d see in Southaven or in Memphis,” Oswalt said.

Sheriff Kevin Crook echoed Richey about the appearance of a tactically-sound department, saying it can be misunderstood by people.

“Billy’s talking about the principle of overwhelming force. You psychologically defeat the enemy without having to fire a shot,” he said.

Richey and Bishop thanked members of the board of supervisors and Crook May 7 for support in the program, where District 3 Supervisor Rubel West said the general public doesn’t understand showing force is a deterrent.

Board president Joseph Richardson and District 4 Supervisor Fulton Ware both said the county government fully supports law enforcement.

“We hear all this about defund the police, but you’re not the bad guys,” Ware said.

Richey said the perception of law enforcement as a whole is looked at negatively right now, which he wants to change for Monroe County.

“There’s something unique about our community. You keep God first, then community, then it’s about us, and that’s how we try to look at it. If you can do that in all aspects of life, things will work out,” he said.

Training makes perfect

The six SWAT team members will not only train other members of the 16-member SWAT team but will also pass some of the tactics learned to implement into patrol.

“We will help each shift. If there’s a B&E (breaking and entering) and they think there’s still somebody in the home, those things will pass along to our entire department,” Richey said of certain approaches.

Members of the SWAT team are instructors throughout the state, teaching at places such as law enforcement academies and industries, which helps put Monroe County on the map.

“People need to realize we don’t have just a force, we have a force above a force. We’re training. The more people know about that, the better they’ll feel about their law enforcement in Monroe County,” said District 5 Supervisor Hosea Bogan.

The SWAT training made team members’ bonds even stronger.

“It keeps us current on what we need to know to perform our duties,” Oswalt said.

SWAT team members have also completed overland search and rescue training, which aids in search and rescue situations.

“Doing the training enhances our abilities to do those tasks. We are learning new things,” Bishop said.

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