In addition to their regular duties, many Sarasota County Sheriff's Office deputies are assigned to specialized units that function under the Special Operations Bureau. These personnel are called upon when the situation demands. Often times these situations are high-risk, and the deputies that respond in their specialized capacity are highly trained in their respective fields. The specialized units include:
The agency’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team is a tactical unit made up of specially trained officers. 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 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. Like the SWAT team, ERT members are always on call.
The agency’s Mounted Patrol Unit patrol is comprised of eight deputies and 11 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. They work closely with the Emergency Response Team and are 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.
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The Bomb 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.
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.