SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS (SWAT) UNIT
The agency’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team is a tactical unit made up of specially trained deputies. They are on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. SWAT team members maintain a high level of proficiency with a range of weapons and equipment, and train on a continual basis. SWAT assists with any number of high risk and technical operations that are often protracted in nature, including hostage rescue and apprehending armed suspects.
The Aviation Unit utilizes a 2005 Bell 407 single engine helicopter with the call sign “Air-1.” This aircraft and the three pilots that fly it provide the Sheriff’s Office and all other city and county agencies with assistance in a variety of missions. These might include missing persons, searches, surveillance and patrol. This aircraft is also capable of assisting with firefighting as requested. In addition to the pilots, the unit is comprised of one full time Aviation mechanic and eight part-time tactical flight officers (TFO’s) who are integral to the operation of various pieces of equipment to include the Wescam MX-10 Multi Sensor System (infrared camera) in both day and night environments.
The agency’s Mounted Patrol Unit patrol is comprised of One full time Sgt., deputies and 10 horses that regularly patrol neighborhoods, parks, beaches and shopping districts. They also assist the Traffic Unit with radar traffic enforcement in complaint areas such as school zones. Mounted deputies can often be seen at large spectator events throughout the county, such as the annual Sarasota County Fair. Theyare particularly effective in conducting missing person searches, especially in wooded terrain that inhibits the use of vehicles. The Unit functions as a result of tremendous community support and generosity, with volunteers providing much of the stable maintenance and horse care.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office took over the responsibilities of Animal Control from the County Government on Oct.1, 1994. The name "Animal Control" was changed to "Animal Services" due to the many services provided to all of Sarasota County. Animal Service Officers respond to calls for service, including nuisance complaints, animal bites, injured animals and animal cruelty. Follow this link to learn more about the Animal Services Section.
HAZARDOUS DEVICES UNIT
The Hazardous Devices Unit is responsible for rendering safe and the disposal of all bombs, booby traps and incendiary devices that are found in the county. Each deputy is trained at the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School in Huntsville, Alabama. The Unit itself is also accredited by the FBI. Members deploy a number of high-tech tools, including a robot, a digital x-ray system and radiation detection equipment. The robot has a track system similar to a tank which allows it to navigate all types of surfaces, including climbing stairs. There are four cameras used for navigation and viewing a suspected bomb. The robot has a single arm which has three moveable joints with a claw at the end. The operator uses the arm for opening doors or lifting and moving objects. An injured person in a dangerous location can be dragged to safety by the robot. It can also be used as a platform to take x-rays of a suspicious item and has tools which can be used to open a package. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office robot is a valuable and versatile piece of equipment which the Hazardous Devices Unit regularly uses on calls.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit is comprised of six teams. Five of the K9 teams are dual purpose dogs that perform narcotics searches and man work, and one is dual purpose performing explosive detection and man work. These teams augment the Patrol Bureau's activities by responding to incidents requiring the unique abilities of the K-9 partnership. These might include missing person searches, apprehending fleeing criminals, high-risk vehicle stops, article searches, drug odor detection, and explosive detection. Each team receives nearly 500 hours of training prior to going into service and is certified annually by both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the National Police Canine Association.
FUGITIVE APPREHENSION UNIT
The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for serving all criminal, misdemeanor, traffic and juvenile warrants in Sarasota County. The Sheriff’s Office receives more than 10,000 arrest warrants from the Clerk of Court’s Office each year. The Fugitive Apprehension Unit searches for wanted subjects, placing a priority on individuals who have warrants for violent felony offenses. They also assist the FDLE, FBI, U.S. Marshal’s Office and the Florida Department of Corrections.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM (ERT)
The agency's ERT responds to large-scale emergency situations and critical incidents. These include civil disorder, tactical search and rescue operations, disaster emergencies such as hurricanes, and prolonged incidents that would over-tax the normal resources of the agency. ERT was one of the units deployed to assist with the Republican National Convention when it was held in Tampa in 2012. ERT deputies are on call 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
SHERIFF’S UNDERWATER RECOVERY FORCE (SURF)
Because of the large number of beaches, lakes, rivers and marshes, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office developed a dive team. The agency’s SURF Unit is called upon to search for evidence of crimes and victims of drowning, water accidents and foul play. These highly trained underwater specialists have to work in some of the most difficult and challenging environments imaginable, as many of the waterways are full of silt and sediment deposits that affect underwater visibility. Like the other specialty units of the agency, SURF deputies are on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
The Marine Unit’s two full-time deputies are supplemented by 6 deputies who provide assistance on a part-time basis when required. The Marine Unit functions primarily to ensure the safety of the county’s many waterways. Marine Patrol deputies enforce boating laws and conduct routine boat safety inspections. They respond to all emergency calls for service on the water, including vessel and aircraft crashes, reports of missing boaters and divers and sick or injured subjects. The Unit also works in partnership with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to keep local waterways safe.
The Traffic Unit is responsible for enforcing all state and local traffic laws. It is comprised of 14 specially trained deputies, six of whom dedicate their efforts to DUI enforcement. The Unit uses a variety of radar and laser speed monitoring devices together with portable breath test instrumentation, and conducts periodic saturation patrols throughout the county to remove dangerous, uninsured or impaired drivers. The seven Harley-Davidson motorcycles that are available to the Traffic Unit are invaluable when called upon to provide dignitary escorts and in parades.
Since its inception in 1981, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Youth Services Section has grown to more than a dozen School Resource Deputies and supervisors serving more than 43,000 Sarasota County students. The priority of the Youth Services Section is to provide a safe environment for the students and teachers, using a three part philosophy known as the “Triad Concept” of teaching, counseling and law enforcement. Because of the relationship of trust developed between students, parents, faculty and School Resource Deputies, the YSS has expanded the number of programs offered to include the Juvenile Law Enforcement Academy, the Juvenile Alcohol Task Force, Rightful Policing Strategy Workshops, and the K9 for Kids Program, designated by President Bush as a point of light for the community. Learn more about the Youth Services Section by clicking here.