AUSTIN, Minn. — The Austin Police Department and the Mower County Sheriff's Office have a combined Special Emergency Response Team that respond to certain emergency scenarios, such as hostage situations. Some of the members of that team are trained as snipers—people who conceal themselves and can fire a weapon from a very long distance.
However, both Mower County Sergeant Investigator Steve Sandvik and Austin Chief of Police Brian Krueger can't recall a time any of their snipers have had to fire a shot. While they are prepared to do so when deadly force is necessary, they often serve a different purpose on the SERT.
With to their concealed vantage point, "The usual main focus is to observe and report back to the team commander or police leadership to let them know what we're seeing and then they can formulate a plan based on those observations," explains Detective Brant Strouf, a sniper on the SERT.
Both Sandvik and Krueger think people may have misperceptions of the role of snipers in law enforcement, especially in distinguishing the difference between military snipers and peace officer snipers.
"From a military standpoint, snipers generally take out individuals so right away I think the general public, as soon as they hear that word, take on that connotation," explains Chief Krueger.
"The skills are the same, but it's a different environment. We are deployed as peace officers and that doesn't change," adds Sergeant Investigator Sandvik.
On Tuesday, the Mower County Board approved travel expenses for a Mower County deputy to travel to an out-of-state training within the next few weeks.
Snipers must train monthly and also attend regular regional trainings and competitions to keep their skills sharp and maintan their certification.
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