WENATCHEE — Local law enforcement agencies are working to form an interagency SWAT team to service Douglas and Chelan counties beginning January 2022.
Wenatchee City Council unanimously approved the mayor to sign an agreement authorizing the formation of the team Thursday night. The team will be known as the East Cascade Multi-Jurisdictional SWAT Team.
Member agencies include Chelan County Sheriff’s Office, Wenatchee Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and East Wenatchee Police Department. The team will be governed by a board of directors composed of the chief administrators from each agency.
Combining efforts will result in a more efficient pooling of personnel, funds; reduced duplication of equipment; and improved training, according to the agreement.
Currently Chelan and Douglas counties have their own multi-agency regional SWAT teams with 11 members each. Wenatchee Police Capt. Brian Chance said the new team is planned to expand to 24 members.
“The objective here is to expand and utilize all the services that the two SWAT teams on either side of the river can bring to the table,” Chance said.
Each member agency will contribute $15,000 per year. Wenatchee will use its existing budget to cover that cost the first year, but budget adjustments may be necessary in the future.
Wenatchee also plans on increasing its personnel contribution from three to seven “operators” over the next three years. The team will begin personnel testing this fall.
During the same city council meeting, the council also approved the acceptance of a $73,000 grant from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
The grant will provide additional on-duty coverage for evening and Saturday staffing of a mental health field response team that services Chelan and Douglas counties.
The Wenatchee Police Department, which was awarded the same grant the previous three years, is the lead agency for the multi-agency regional grant.
“This is the fourth year. I never expected to get past two and yet last year came through and then this year came through again,” Wenatchee Police Captain Edgar Reinfeld said. “This actually reflects the largest grant we’ve been awarded in the process.”
All funding goes to Catholic Charities, the city’s contracted provider for crisis response services. Reinfeld said his efforts to get the grant directly assigned to Catholic Charities have been unsuccessful, so the city acts as a pass through for the funding.
Since the police department partnered with Catholic Charities in 2015, the program has grown from a single staff member answering calls at the request of officers to a small staff of designated crisis responders and mental health professionals. Its service area has also expanded from just Wenatchee to include requests from Chelan County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and East Wenatchee Police Department.