ONLY ON 5: Jackson County’s SWAT team returning

Central Point, Ore. — It’s been more than a year since the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team took off their vests, and put their gear in storage. The hiatus came during a time when budgets were tight, and resources were limited. But tonight, the team is in it’s final stages of becoming operational again, and only NBC5 News is giving you an inside look at one of their final trainings.

The Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, hasn’t been active since spring of last year.

“When we started to see personnel shortages, it really impacted our patrol division,” Sheriff Nathan Sickler says.

Sheriff Sickler says it was a decision made by prior leadership, in an effort to maintain patrol resources. He says it wasn’t an easy one.

“To put that on hiatus and say, ‘we’re not gonna do it’ yeah I think it was disappointing,” Sheriff Sickler says, “but at the end of the day I think we came back stronger, and more organized and have more personnel, so I think it’s for the better.”

That initial disappointment has now turned to delight, as 8 months of training is preparing the 18-member team to go operational again.

“I’m excited,” Sgt. Jesse Ainsworth says.

“We’re happy to bring it back cause they really truly enjoy this aspect of the job,” Sheriff Sickler adds, “and so we’re happy to provide that opportunity for them and our citizens.”

Once the team gets the green light, they’ll be able to respond to critical incidents.

“High risk search warrants, responding to barricaded subjects, hostage rescues, dignitary protection,” Sgt. Ainsworth explains.

Unlike a responding patrol deputy, the SWAT team has specialized tools and training they can bring to high-risk calls. Meaning the return of the team will allow them to better protect officers, and the public, when it’s needed most.

“It’s a great responsibility and we look forward to getting out there and helping out,” Sgt. Ainsworth says.

When the sheriff’s office was without a SWAT team it relied on a partnership with Medford Police. The team plans to be active in September.

Kristin Hosfelt anchors NBC5 News at 6 with NBC5 News Director Craig Smullin. Kristin is originally from the Bay Area. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from San Jose State University.

She comes to KOBI-TV/NBC5 from Bangor, Maine where she was the evening news anchor. Kristin has won multiple journalism awards including Best Feature Reporting in the State of Maine.

When Kristin is not sharing the news she's hunting down the best burrito, hiking a local trail or buried in a Jodi Picoult novel. She's also a Green Bay Packers shareholder! If you see her out and about she'd be happy to tell you how a California girl became a Cheesehead.

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