MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Police Department continues to search for ways to train new officers after one of their own was charged with murder for the shooting death of an unarmed man in March.
One change involves the SWAT team -- some of the most well-trained tactical officers in the department.
Montgomery Public Safety Director Chris Murphy set the record straight following allegations the SWAT team was split to serve in a patrol capacity to train newer officers.
"We have not disbanded SWAT, and we do not intend to disband SWAT," Murphy said. "Chief Finley made the decision to bring those tactical officers with their expertise, those senior people, for a 90-day period of time to do two-man units out in the field."
Two-person patrols were strongly requested following the fatal shooting of Montgomery resident Greg Gunn. Murphy said doing nothing was not an option. SWAT is currently 30 days into this redistribution assignment.
"We are re-utilizing them at this point," Murphy explained. "But, this week we had a situation that required SWAT, and we began calling them back up."
He was referencing a subject who was barricaded in a home on Ashton Circle on Monday. It's unclear whether this was the first time the team operated in this capacity following the reassignment.
"There is some pro and con. Obviously we don't have the ability of SWAT we had two months ago," Murphy said. "When you look at the data of having true SWAT calls, the last year – the last three years, we've weighed all that out."
We asked if any other agency were helping fill the void of a full-time SWAT team.
"We are kind of the big boys on the block. We are the Montgomery Police Department, we are the Capital City," Murphy explained. "We support a lot of the smaller agencies in the River Region. I am not aware of a situation where we have had to call in a sister agency from anywhere."
Murphy agreed to check again after our interview and confirmed over the phone two agencies, Prattville police and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, served high-risk warrants for MPD.
Murphy confirmed he signed off on the transition and stands behind the decision.
"There's going to be a consequence for anytime you move people around," Murphy stated. "We were going for areas of least detriment and more benefit."
As for the impact on public safety, Murphy said the lack of a full-time SWAT wouldn't be an issue. In active shooter situations, police on the ground immediately address the incident, not waiting on SWAT.
After the 90-day assignment is complete, Murphy said MPD would use the data from this period to determine how to go forward.