The Bay County Sheriff's Office has at its disposal an elite nineteen-men SWAT Unit commanded by Captain David Baldwin. This team was first formed in 1981 to respond to dangerous high-risk incidents that required tactical operation skills more advanced than a police officer receives in basic training. This advanced training includes everything from sniper/counter-sniper operations to helicopter insertion techniques. The Swat Team trains continuously, at least one full day every 28 days. This does not include the advanced training schools the officers attend between regular training days. To keep their skills well-honed, the team routinely trains with other agencies as well as the U.S. Military.
The Bay County Sheriff's Office Swat Team has a record of dedication and professionalism. This is reflected by the teams requested use by other law enforcement agencies, including United States Customs, United States Marshals, Federal Drug Enforcement Agency and other local agencies in and outside of Bay County. The Bay County Sheriff's Office Swat Team routinely assists smaller agencies that do not have the manpower or resources to have a tactical operations team of their own. This dedication is utilized throughout the Panhandle as the team is a member of the RDSTF Region One SWAT Response. To become a Swat Team member, the officer has to have a minimum of three years law enforcement experience at the Bay County Sheriff's Office. The officer must be a volunteer.
No one is forced or required to perform in the hazardous job assignment. The officer must be in excellent physical and mental condition. The officer is required to pass a psychological exam prior to being picked as a team member. Swat Team Officers are required to pass a battery of physical fitness tests each month. As an example, an officer that is 29 years old is required to run 1.5 miles in 11 minutes and 41 seconds or less. Once a team member is picked, it takes an average of two years before the new member is trained to minimum level requirements. Needless to say, being a part of the team requires a great deal of dedication, discipline, motivation, and personal sacrifice. Team members are required to be on-call and tied to a pager 24 hrs. a day, able to respond to a critical incident in full gear in less than 30 minutes. The majority of the Swat Teams calls-for-service involves the execution of warrants. These include both arrest and search warrants where there are firearms involved or the potential for extreme violence exists. The team also responds to barricaded gunmen as well as hostage situations.
Of the nineteen team members, several are certified instructors in various subjects from defensive tactics to firearms and Chemical agents. Each team member must be qualified in multiple weapons, from submachine guns to assault rifles. One team member is also an emergency medical technician. The team members provide training to other officers within the Bay County Sheriff's Office as well as to other agencies. Sheriff Ford believes the key to the teams success is training and dedication.