Ithaca, N.Y. — In November 1996, Inv. Michael Padula of the Ithaca Police Department responded to a call for an emotionally disturbed woman.
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Arriving on the scene, Padula found the woman barricaded in the bathroom of the home. She suddenly ran out and stabbed Padula in the neck. The woman was then shot by other police officers. Both Padula and the woman died.
Ithaca soon acted to do more to ensure its officers’ safety. As Lt. Jacob Young explained at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Citizens’ Police Academy, both the IPD’s SWAT team and the Critical Incident Negotiations Teams were formed in response to the incident.
“At the time there was no resource for tactics and special equipment or procedure to safely deal with the situation … (Padula) was doing the best he could at the time,” Young said, also noting that there were officers who had to live with second-guessing if they’d made the right call that night or could have done more to protect the investigator.
“We had a double loss of life that might not have happened if we had other resources available.”
This is why the IPD SWAT team logo has number 106: It was the number on Padula’s badge. The Latin inscription chosen for the logo, “Deficere Non Licet,” translates into “failure is not an option.”
“That’s what they came up with for moving forward,” Young said, “and what’s been kept ever since.”
Here’s are four other things we learned from Lt. Young’s report:
1 — What does the IPD SWAT team get called for?
Here’s the list presented by Lt. Young of what the IPD’s SWAT team been called to since the inception of the team in 1998:
Narcotics/Weapon warrant: 106
Barricaded individual: 35
Bomb incident: 2
Dignitary protection: 3
Civil Disturbance/Crowd Control: 11
High Risk Suspect Warrant: 7
High Risk Fugitive Warrant: 2
9/11 Detail: 2
Search & Recovery: 1
Hostage Situation: 1
HR Vehicle Take Down: 1
HR Warrant Round Up: 2
Under Cover Officer Protection Detail: 1
2 — TV and movies work against perception of SWAT
Young’s comments echoed those of other presenters in the IPD who said TV and movies had given a false impression that SWAT work was all fun gadgets and wild explosions.
“A lot of the times, frankly, it can be quite boring. It’s very intricate there’s a lot of being patient, waiting, and a lot of thought process that goes into it,” he said.
3 — Community outreach
“We do quite a bit of that as a SWAT team,” Young said.
Recent demos from IPD’s SWAT team have included one at the Cascadilla School, another with cub scouts, and at the GIAC festival.
Young said perhaps the best known SWAT team example of community outreach is when the team rappels down Center Ithaca on the Commons dressed as Santa Claus. “That’s a pretty neat way to give back,” Young said.
4 — What does it take to be on the team?
Try-outs include a physical fitness test. SWAT officers must also pass obstacle courses and shooting proficiency tests, as well as an oral interview.
Young said SWAT team members aren’t paid more for their work — but that the extra training is worth it.
“You’re not getting extra pay for it or a bonus, but you do get some extra training, which is always great in our profession,” Young said.