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CSI: Walton County?
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office has received a Combating Crime in a Rural Community grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The nearly $819,000 grant is the largest the department has received, according to a news release announcing the award.
The bulk of the grant will be used to purchase and equip the Sheriff’s Office’s first crime scene vehicle.
Another portion of the funds will “provide the most modern and innovative forensic investigation training to the CSI unit personnel,” the release states.
Remaining funds will be used to hire a full-time grants writer to manage all current grants and research new opportunities.
Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson took pride that the grant was competitive; the Department of Justice ranked each application on how many of the established criteria were met. He said that proves how far the department has come.
The new unit will result in shorter response times and better service, he said. Until now, the Sheriff’s Office had relied on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Crime Scene Unit, which had to travel from Pensacola.
The FDLE does a good job and will continue to assist, “but this gives us on-scene capability to respond more quickly, more efficiently and with better training, and we can have one of the top crime scene divisions in the state,” Adkinson said.
The Sheriff’s Office had to borrow a crime scene unit from Bay County during a two-day manhunt in late August because Walton did not have one, said spokesman Mike Gurspan.
Matheos Pitikas, a 24-year-old fugitive from Texas, had crashed his car in a wooded area in Point Washington and then fled into the woods.
Separate-but-related crime scenes often develop out of a single incident, according to the news release. During the search for Pitikas, four crime scenes were investigated.
A fifth crime scene was created when Pitikas shot and killed himself before he was captured.
By KIM WHITE / Florida Freedom Newspapers
Walton County, Fla:
The newly appointed Special Weapons and Tactics(SWAT) Team Tactical Commander for the Walton County Sheriff’s Office says the unit will work with agility and confidence. A few years-ago, the Sheriff’s Office Chief of Criminal Investigations Division, Captain Tom Ring, played a similar role for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Special Operations Teams.
Captain Ring held a tryout for the newly formed Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team. Those who will be selected must demonstrate good decision making skills, physical capabilities, and marksmanship. Captain Tom Ring says “the team will work as a unit to affect a violent felony arrests and when executing high risk search warrants”. The SWAT team members will also be trained to provide protection for visiting dignitaries and high-ranking government officials. Hostage negotiation skills are another important component to training.
Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. told those trying to make the team, “that despite a tight, fiscal budget he will do whatever it takes to make sure the SWAT team members receive the best training, and the best possible equipment”.
“They will work with confidence, and be able to effectively work under intense pressure”, according to Captain Ring. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is expected to employ the SWAT team when affecting felony warrant arrests which is often the case when dealing with violent drug dealers and users’.
The “Tacticalcops.com” training manual states that SWAT training must be continuous and on-going. Instructors and students must be willing to learn new information without any fear of change. Upon completion of each training session trainers must evaluate the objectives that were provided to the team. The thought that “if it’s not broken why fix it” does not apply to Law Enforcement training in general, SWAT in particular.
In coming weeks and months and as the training progresses, Captain Ring will be evaluating the personnel to determine who will make up the SWAT team. Sheriff Adkinson foresees the day when his squad will be ranked with the best in the state, and the nation.