Simi SWAT Team To Compete in National Contest

VENTURA, Calif. — Members of the Simi Valley Police Department SWAT Team are headed to a national competition this month in Colorado, where they will train and compete alongside some of the world's top police forces.

A fundraiser for the trip will be held Tuesday at the Simi Valley Town Center shopping mall, where the team will demonstrate SWAT procedures and meet community members before the championships.

Thirty law enforcement teams from across the United States as well as from Portugal, Germany and the Czech Republic will gather May 19-23 in Littleton, Colo., for three days of training followed by an intense two-day competition.

"When a team goes to the competition, they learn a lot and get to test themselves to see how good they are, and that's a benefit to the citizens of Simi Valley," said Jack O'Connor, the event's executive director.

Expert instructors will hold weapons and tactics training seminars, and teams will compete in events that demand strategy, physical fitness and marksmanship.

'Working hard for this'

The Simi Valley team earned its invitation by finishing second in September's Best in the West SWAT Competition in San Jose, which included 32 teams from California, Washington, Arizona and Nevada.

"We've got some good people in the program who have been working hard for this," Simi Valley police Sgt. Robert Brill said. "We had a good day in that particular competition, and the guys are in the spot to go to the nationals."

Simi team members often work double shifts to fulfill SWAT duties on top of their regular assignments. Many other teams headed to the championships work SWAT full time.

The department tests its SWAT members every six months to determine who stays on the team and also who is sent to competitions.

"You want tactical ability, teamwork ability, shooting and physical fitness, but you also need intelligence," Sgt. Bill Lappin said. "They've got to figure out resolutions to situations that result in nobody getting hurt."

Brill, Lappin and Sgt. Darin Muehler lead the SWAT team, which includes Detective Greg Gonzales, senior officers Richard Lamb and Rick Morton, and officers Greg Buchanan, Matt Buchanan, Tom Chapple, Dave Hodgson, Ritchie Lew, Steve Philbrook, Chuck Thomson, Kevin Van Fleet, Roy Walker and Brian Young. Lt. Mike King commands Simi Valley's SWAT and crisis negotiation teams.

Greg Buchanan, a captain in the Marine Corps Reserve, helped the team to last year's second place finish in San Jose, and was deployed to Iraq in March. He is four minutes younger than twin brother and SWAT teammate Matt Buchanan.

The team will travel to Littleton a few days early to adjust to the elevation, 5,340 feet above sea level.

Demonstrations planned

Restaurants at the Simi Valley Town Center have committed a portion of Tuesday's sales to benefit the team.

Supporters can eat at California Pizza Kitchen, Dakota's Great Steakhouse, Exotic Thai Bistro, Lim n Latin Grill or Red Fish Restaurant and 15 percent of the bill will go to the Simi Valley Police Foundation.

Patrons are each asked to present a flier for the event, which is available at the foundation's Web site, http://www.svpf.org.

SWAT demonstrations at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. Tuesday will showcase the team's armored vehicle, diversion devices and rescue procedures in the center's parking lot at 1555 Simi Town Center Way. K-9 demonstrations are scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m.

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