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April 21. 2013 12:11AM

State police SWAT team members put their training to the test

Seventeen members of the New Hampshire State Police SWAT team joined other New Hampshire units in Watertown, Mass., in the search that ultimately resulted in the apprehension of a suspect in the BAA Marathon bombing.

"I put together a small task force of (the bomb squad), SWAT and negotiators so that we could essentially do most missions." said Lt. Kevin Duffy, commander of the SWAT team. "New Hampshire was given a task of clearing certain sectors that had been established by law enforcement prior to our arrival, but had not been actually cleared."

Members of the team have other responsibilities within the State Police; SWAT duties are an additional assignment.

In addition to commanding the unit, Duffy is also the commander of Troop E, which serves Belknap and Carroll counties. Other members serve in patrol, as detectives or in other responsibilities.

They drill regularly, since SWAT team members are called out at a moment's notice.

"They have the equipment, they are prepared and ready to go from their residence to point A, then as a unit to point B, ready to handle any mission," Duffy said. "This is a drill we do a little bit too often these days."

Sometimes, the State Police team is sent to work with units from other cities and states. But Duffy said the law enforcement agencies understood their common responsibility.

"There is that camaraderie and esprit de corps that is between agencies regardless of state lines," Duffy said. "When you are called, you have a sense of dedication, so you essentially respond and take care of missions to the fullest extent of your training and ability."

After suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was captured, Watertown residents were able to leave their homes in safety after living for 24 hours with the news that a terrorist lurked among them.

The residents responded to the arrest by taking to the streets in celebration and by cheering law enforcement officers who had spent a long day searching, not knowing what might be behind a door or lurking in a shadow.

"I think the community is very thankful for the hard work those first responders accomplished," Duffy said.

"They were living with a lot of unknowns and fear. When you have someone on the lam in a community and you capture that person after an exhaustive manhunt, there is a sense of ease and you can kind of relax."

While the gratitude shown by the people of Watertown was a very public gesture, Duffy said expressions of appreciation are not that unusual.

"We see it in different ways. It can be a handshake, a thank you after changing a tire - or it can be something on a grander scale, like the community in Watertown," Duffy said.

"When you perform one of these missions and law enforcement was able to take that subject into custody - there is a sense of pride that comes from that, because you accomplished a very serious mission.


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