New rifles for sheriff’s tactical team

By Jeff Linville -

DOBSON — The local SWAT members will be getting a few new rifles as part of a firearm trade after approval from the county.

Known locally at SET, or Special Enforcement Team, the division of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office is made up of 14 deputies specially trained to perform high-risk operations such as raids, hostage rescue, barricaded suspects, counter-terrorism and engaging heavily armed suspects.

Because of the nature of SET’s work, the team members have access to equipment and weapons that regular patrol officers don’t have.

Chief Deputy Lauren Osborne told county Board of Commissioners this week that the sheriff’s office has 19 tactical rifles, but some of these are M16 models like some of them used when they served in the military. The rifles are long and not the best choice for tight spaces such as making an entry on a raid.

A better choice is a rifle with the same 5.56mm round, but a shorter frame, he said, such as the Colt M4 Commando at 27.5 inches with an 11.5-inch barrel.

The law enforcement agency rate is $850 for the rifle, with another $115 for a case and three 30-round spare magazines.

The team can get five of these rifles without costing the county a penny, Osborne told the board.

The sheriff’s office confiscates a lot of weapons over time. Over the past few years, the most recent collections tally 70 items. The court system has given the sheriff’s office the right to keep the weapons for their own use or dispose of them through a federally licensed firearms dealer.

In a memo to County Manager Chris Knopf, Osborne stated that Town Police Supply, of Collinsville, Virginia, was willing to trade all 70 pieces for five sets of rifles (rifle, case, spare magazines).

Lt. Mike Creed said the order form for the five rifles says used, but that isn’t really true. Four of the five have never been fired, and the other one only has had a couple of clips run through it for testing.

Creed said that an unnamed university in Virginia had ordered the Colt Commandos for campus security. Then a new security chief came on board and didn’t want something for the officers like the Commando — which can be fired in both semi-auto and fully automatic modes.

That $850 price is the used rate, noted Osborne. If these were being sold as new, the cost would be $1,100 each.

One of the commissioners asked about doing business with an out-of-state company instead of someone closer to home.

Creed said the department has traded with Windy Hill Trading Post in Elkin and Gun Country in Mount Airy before, so they do look local when possible. However, Town Police Supply happens to be the one with the right equipment.

Getting rid of 70 weapons to get just five seems a little one-sided, a couple of commissioners thought.

The list looks good until you see the weapons in person, said Creed. For example, there is a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber pistol that sounds good until you see that someone sawed off the hammer. There are shotguns and rifles with the stocks chopped off. There is a Colt .45 pistol, but it is all scuffed up and has some rust pits.

He said there was a Colt .380 Mustang that was in good shape, but a lot of these items won’t bring much value to a firearms dealer.

After the discussion, the board approved the trade.

Animal Control

Osborne had a second request for the board related to equipment for animal control vehicles.

Last year, the county board voted to have the animal shelter and its staff report to the sheriff’s office.

The Finance Department has received a purchase order request for Tritech Software System for $16,679, Bowen told the board.

This is the on-board computer and software used in patrol cars to stay in constant contact with the office and 9-1-1 communications, said Osborne. Now the animal control officers are part of the sheriff’s office, the sheriff would like these employees to have the same equipment and connectivity.

Not only are these workers doing their normal jobs, but they are backing up the patrol officers in times of need, too, he said. For example, they joined in last week when a neighboring landowner firing a shotgun on his property caused a lockdown at North Surry.

The sheriff’s office brought this idea up at the time the change happened, Osborne pointed out.

The board did acknowledge last year that there might be some unexpected expenses that crop up with the changeover, said Commissioner Van Tucker.

As the Animal Control budget doesn’t have any funding for such an expense, the money would have to come from the general contingency fund, Bowen said.

The board voted in agreement.

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.