Murrysville police anticipate joining multi-agency Community Response Team |

Murrysville police anticipate joining multi-agency Community Response Team

Patrick Varine
Murrysville police Chief Tom Seefeld pauses while discussing the scene of a shooting at the Marathon gas station along Route 22 in Murrysville in 2016.

Tom Seefeld started a Community Response Team when he was police chief in New Kensington 20 years ago, with the goal of having some officers specially trained for high-risk events such as active shooters or barricaded gunmen and serving drug warrants.

Now chief in Murrysville, Seefeld is about to be back on the squad.

He anticipates his department will join an updated version of the team that has expanded to include Upper Burrell, New Kensington, Lower Burrell, Vandergrift and Washington Township.

“There had been some discussion about expanding the team and its capabilities,” Seefeld said. “Council will vote on it at their first meeting in June.”

Original team members always wanted more communities involved but previous efforts never got a foothold, according to Tim Weitzel, Lower Burrell police chief and one of the administrators for the New Kensington/Lower Burrell CRT.

“Pennsylvania has lots of small police departments for whom it would be tough to support a CRT team,” he said.

Having a number of communities involved defrays costs for everyone and allows for just a few officers needing the special training.

“They’ll all train together monthly on specialized equipment, including two armored vehicles and specialized weapons,” Seefeld said. “The team will cover northern Westmoreland, basically from Route 22 north.”

For high-risk situations in Murrysville, local police rely on the Pennsylvania State Police’s response team.

“They do a great job,” Seefeld said. “But to have a force that can be deployed rapidly will be a great help.”

Expanded manpower and tactical equipment gives local police a big advantage in tense situations. Seefeld said he was talking with New Kensington’s police chief recently about a standoff situation where the CRT team responded.

“The chief said that when that armored vehicle showed up, (the suspects) started ‘waving the white flag’ and gave up,” he said.

Seefeld also said the participation of four Murrysville officers will be beneficial in multiple ways.

“They’ll bring that specialized training back to our department,” he said. “Our hope is to be as prepared as possible by having the necessary resources, equipment and specially trained officers to bring a volatile situation to a peaceful conclusion, while minimizing the risks and harm to the public and police officers.”

Murrysville council is expected to vote June 5 on an ordinance authorizing officers to join the CRT.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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