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San Luis Obispo Regional SWAT: Who they are, and when they are called in

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The City of Pismo Beach
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Each member of the Regional SWAT team has a specific duty assignment that may range from scout to sniper, to entry team member.

In the past two weeks, the San Luis Obispo Regional Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team has been called in to assist in two separate barricaded suspects situations. One in Pismo Beach resulted in a peaceful arrest of the suspect, while the other in Paso Robles ended in a fatal shooting of the suspect while police were attempting arrest.

The San Luis Obispo Regional SWAT team is composed of more than 30 officers from eight police departments in SLO County, including San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.

Commander of the team, SLOPD Captain Brian Amoroso, said they get called in when situations are so hazardous, complex or unusual that they may exceed the capabilities of the patrol officers on-duty to handle.

“Typically, those are things like barricaded subjects," Amoroso said. "Hostage situations, high risk warrants — things like that.”

Some members of the team are crisis negotiators, who try to talk the suspects into surrendering peacefully. The negotiators often have to talk with suspects that may have underlying mental health issues.

In the situation in Pismo Beach on July 10, the barricaded suspect was a veteran and believed to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Amoroso said crisis negotiators are police officers.

“They do cover significant mental health in their training," Amoroso said. "And that’s something we can easily include depending on the situation if we needed to put some mental health resources with them.”

While the look of officers in armored vehicles and tactical military uniforms has come under public scrutiny throughout America, Amoroso said the SWAT team's main mission is to save lives of those in danger, the public and the suspects themselves through de-escalation.

“Any type of use of force is always our last resort," Amoroso said. "Our goal is to just simply make the area safe, and let crisis negotiation do what they are trained to do, [which is] how we can achieve a peaceful resolution so that everyone can go home.”

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