Macon County's Sheriff's Office has a SWAT unit known as the SRT (Special Response Team). The 10 man unit is headed by Clay Bryson. Bryson began his career with the sheriff's office in April 2000 in the patrol unit as a deputy. He worked his way up to sergeant before being promoted to his current position as First Sergeant of the Patrol Unit in 2012. Bryson received his first patrol canine in 2001 and now oversees all patrol K-9 operations in Macon County. He is currently working to obtain his trainer certification through the North American Police Work Dog Association.
In 2002, Bryson joined the SRT division of the sheriff's office. Like each of the other nine individuals on the SRT unit, Bryson's involvement on the team is voluntary and is in addition to the other duties assigned to him within the sheriff's office. After being assigned to the SRT unit, Bryson has been certified as a North Carolina Law Enforcement Sniper, and according to his fellow SRT officers, is undeniably the best sniper they have ever worked with. Bryson is also certified as a general and firearms instructor as well as a rapid deployment instructor, making him invaluable to the department.
Macon County's SRT is a SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team. SWAT is the commonly used name for law enforcement units, which utilize military-style light weapons and specialized tactics in high-risk operations that fall outside of the capabilities of regular, uniformed police.
Bryson explained that the duties of the SRT include responding to reports of heavily armed criminals, high risk arrests and entering armored or barricaded buildings. "The SRT's purpose is to increase the likelihood or probability that a critical incident can be resolved safely and effectively," said Bryson.
Each member of the 10-man unit has other jobs within the department. From the patrol unit to detention officers, the SRT team is comprised of volunteers. To be eligible for the SRT, officers are required to have two years of continuous full-time experience with the department. After submitting an application for the team, officers are then required to pass the SRT physical training test. Officers are required to do 40 sit ups, 40 push ups and then complete a one-mile obstacle course all in under 15 minutes.
If officers pass the physical test, they are then required to achieve at least a 93 percent on the firearm test with a MCSO issued handgun. Officers who meet all the requirements outlined by the MCSO and are appointed to the SRT are required to pass the SRT physical fitness test on an annual basis.
The first SWAT team was established in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1967, by Inspector Daryl Gates after an incident occurred that resulted in 34 deaths, 1032 injured, 4,000 people arrested and $40 million in property damage. The LAPD recognized the need for officers who are highly disciplined to receive additional training to handle extreme circumstances.
Macon County's SRT division was formed in 1992 and has responded to an array of cases in Macon County and surrounding areas. Bryson explained that in one incident, an Andrews man was being tracked for armed robbery and Macon County's SRT was called in to assist in the arrest.
In another incident, the SRT team was called in to support two new patrol units who were called out on a disturbance call. When officers arrived, a man opened fire on the officers, who were able to escape to the nearby woods. The SRT was called in to not only safely subdue the man, but to retrieve the officers who were pinned down in the woods being hunted by the armed man. The SRT was able to detain the man and safely retrieve the officers without anyone being harmed.
Most recently, Macon County's SRT was used in the manhunt for Jeffery Alan Tedesco, who fled when Franklin Police officers attempted to arrest him on a warrant for burglary in Clayton, Ga.
Nearly half of the current members of the SRT unit have extensive military experience and all but two officers have at least 15 years of law enforcement experience. Despite being on the front lines of the most dangerous cases that are issued to the MCSO, from narcotic investigations to armed robberies, the SRT members receive no additional pay for their work above their hourly wages. The SRT does not receive a pay incentive for their dedication to be the first responders in cases that pose the most harm for residents.
Citizens Academy participants were given the opportunity to watch the SRT in action during a scenario involving a suspect barricaded in a home. The SRT utilized full gear including protective armor such as vests and helmets during the demonstration. After setting up a surveillance team in the woods, the SRT infiltrated a structure to apprehend an armed suspect. After the demonstration, the Citizens Academy got to experience a little of what the SRT goes through to prepare for a mission by wearing the gear, which easily weighed 30 pounds, examining the guns and equipment used when called in for duty and even firing a G36 rifle into a target.