The Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT) has disbanded, and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) will now operate its own squad in the city.
The move took effect Jan. 1, resulting in the four MIERT partners – Abbotsford, Delta, New Westminster and Port Moody – coming up with alternative plans.
MIERT, often referred to by the public as the SWAT team, was formed in 2003 to respond to high-risk situations in all four cities. These included drug busts, gang-related arrests and armed stand-offs.
The team was composed of officers from each of the participating municipal police departments.
APD Const. Ian MacDonald said Abbotsford had the highest number of incidents involving MIERT and paid the largest portion of the costs, at between 40 and 50 per cent.
He said the demand for MIERT dates back to the city’s gang problem, most prominent in 2008 and 2009, and to pro-active policing that involved a high number of drug warrants.
MIERT worked well in Abbotsford, he said.
“We didn’t really see a downside … The team did an exceptionally good job.”
But with some or all of the other departments wanting other options, Abbotsford was forced to come up with its own plan.
MacDonald said the APD chose to go with its own officers, rather than contracting out the services, because it already had a number of trained and qualified personnel.
The APD emergency response team (ERT) consists of 17 members, and about 10 of them will require additional training.
The members will mainly work at regular policing duties but will be called in as needed to perform ERT tasks.
MacDonald said the costs are coming out of the existing police budget, as are the funds to buy out from the other partners, at a depreciated value, MIERT’s BearCat G3 armoured vehicle, purchased in 2010 for $322,000.
At that time, the APD paid about 40 per cent of the costs for the vehicle, which was based in Abbotsford.
“You will not see any additional costs (from the ERT) passed on to the taxpayers. It’s more of a challenge to us (police) to make it work,” MacDonald said.
He said Abbotsford having its own ERT will benefit the community with faster response times in emergency high-risk situations.
Meanwhile, the Delta Police Department is using a hybrid of its own team and Vancouver’s, while Port Moody is using Vancouver’s ERT.
New Westminster has opted to use the RCMP’s ERT, saving about $100,000 a year compared to what it was paying with MIERT.