On Friday, January 13, 2012, Sheriff Grady Judd presented certificates of completion to eleven people – ten men and one woman – after they each completed the rigorous PCSO SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) training school.
Each year, PCSO takes applications from deputies, other agency law enforcement officers, and paramedics from throughout Polk County who are interested in becoming SWAT-certified. Each January, PCSO holds a SWAT class, which consists of three phases that include physical fitness, classroom training, tactical training, weapons qualifications, the stress course, and the obstacle course.
This year, 20 people applied to the course, with 15 attempting to pass. Eleven candidates were successful.
PCSO’s first female deputy, Shanon Demarest, passed the SWAT course, becoming the Polk County Sheriff’s first female SWAT member. In addition, one Winter Haven P.D. officer, 2 Polk County paramedics, and seven other PCSO deputies passed the course.
Deputy Sheriff Shanon Demarest was hired in July 2010, and is 28 years old. Her background includes being heavily involved in sports since the age of five: soccer, track, and gymnastics. Shanon is currently assigned to the Southeast District, in patrol.
The seven other PCSO deputies who graduated are:
Detention Deputies Dustin Colkmire, James Pafford, and Joseph Williams, and Deputy Sheriffs Dallas Hughes, Jason Myers, Gabriel Reveron, and Dennis Russo. Incidentally, Dennis’ younger brother, Brian, who is also a PCSO deputy sheriff, is already a member of the SWAT team, making them the first set of brothers on the team.
Polk County paramedics Rob Brown and Paul Snider, and WHPD Officer Michael Roe, also successfully completed the course.
The PCSO SWAT course consists of three phases. Phases one and two include several timed physical fitness tests which must be successfully completed for the candidate to be able to move on to the third and final phase. These tests include: a 1-mile run in under 12 minutes, wearing “full gear,” which consists of the SWAT uniform, combat boots, weapons, and a gas mask; a 30-yard timed low crawl, in full gear; a 50-yard timed run in full gear, carrying a 50-lb. battering ram; clearing a 6-foot high fence in full gear; 3 pull-ups and 5 dips, timed, in full gear; 90% accuracy firing the agency-issued Glock; dragging the heaviest member of the SWAT team (who weighs approximately 300 lbs.) 15 yards; running a simulated event, while negotiating eight flights of stairs.
Candidates who do not successfully complete all of the tasks in phases one and two cannot move on to the final phase. Shanon Demarest is the first female deputy to complete phases one and two. She then moved on with the other 10 applicants to the final phase.
The final phase of the PCSO SWAT school is a 64-hour course, which this year was conducted last week, from January 9-13, 2012. Day one begins with a 7-mile run, followed by tactical drills, more exercises, and classroom training. Days two and three also begin with several-mile runs, followed by officer safety training, building entry drills, and other SWAT tactics. Day four is the stress course, which exposes the candidates to chemical agents, and then measures their ability to overcome mentally and physically and still be able to perform tasks as experienced in real-world scenarios, such as shooting, low crawling, negotiating physical obstacles.
On the last day of the final phase, all of the candidates must successfully negotiate the PCSO obstacle course, which consists of 20 obstacles. This course measures the candidates’ physical strength, agility, and stamina, and exposes them to situations they would encounter in a real scenario: climbing, crawling, being exposed to cold water elements, drainpipes, ropes, poles, etc. The final phase of the PCSO SWAT school is similar to a week-long boot camp. Passing this phase alone is a huge accomplishment, and one of which these members can be very proud. Being a member of the SWAT team is completely voluntary.
“We are very excited to welcome our first female deputy to our SWAT team – we believe she will help enhance our mission of providing excellent customer service to the citizens of Polk County. I am so proud of each of these deputies, the two paramedics, and the Winter Haven Police Officer – they have proven that they really are the ‘best of the best.’” - Sheriff Grady Judd