LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — It takes determination and dedication to become a part of the Lansing Police Department’s START Team.
The Special Tactics and Rescue Team marks 50 years in service Wednesday. 6 News met up with some START Team members to learn more about what it’s like to be a part of this special team.
On LPD’s website it says, when the citizens of Lansing need help, they call the police. When the police need help, they call START.
This team made up of tactical officers, negotiators, K-9 Officers, drone and robot operators, dispatches and medical personnel, work together to complete their missions as safely as possible.
“The team camaraderie is huge, they receive a ton of extra training. It’s a hard mission but we still go out and do that every single day when we’re called upon,” said Lansing Police Sgt. Kevin Schlagel.
That commitment to START’s mission is something Commander Sgt. Kevin Schlagel sees in all of his team members. They’re ready at a moment’s notice to save the lives of people caught up in the most dangerous situations Lansing has to offer.
And that includes Officer Doug Hall, who has served eight years with START.
“We have the training, the experience and we’re there to help the community. In the long run, it’s basically there’s a crisis incident that is occurring and we are there to help,” Hall said.
Officer Hall and LPD’s START Team were there to help last February when they rushed to the scene of the mass shooting at Michigan State University.
“We showed up in a tactical team to assist patrol and all the other agencies in clearing buildings and assisting trying to contact the accused,” Hall said.
Responding immediately and adapting to high risk situations are skills START Team members must demonstrate whenever they’re called into action.
“The main thing is just to stay focused on the mission and complete it as safely as possible,” Hall said.
Another key to START’s effectiveness is the dynamic duo of K-9 handler Austin Brown and his partner Rocky.
“100% he is an officer and as you can see by the vest, it’s similar to the one I wear. It’s stab resistant, slash proof and bullet resistant,” Brown said.
Rocky goes in first, if an officer has the potential to get hurt.
“I feel a little more secure because I know that I have a partner who always has my back,” Brown said. “I can always count on him to make the right decision, and I feel safe when he’s out and around. He’s located suspects; he’s located firearms; he’s located property.”
But if it’s too dangerous for K-9 Officer Rocky, START sends in drones and robots to relay live pictures to get a better understanding of what’s going on in real-time.
“One of the innovative things that our drone team did is we have a primary camera, which articulates 360-degrees but they also have a 3-D printed back mount — for that which we put a body camera on and now we can live feed that information into the command bus,” Schlagel said.
These advanced technologies gather information from areas that officers might not otherwise be able to access.
“It is a tool that we can use to help locate people that we are looking for without getting too close to ’em too quickly, so we have an understanding of what’s going on. The job is very rewarding. I mean obviously the main goal in START is to save lives. You get to be part of a team; you get to see some things that you know people may not typically see,” Hall said.