Routt law enforcement agencies try new tactic with SWAT |

Routt law enforcement agencies try new tactic with SWAT

Sheriff’s Office and Police Department pooling resources to make joint team

Steamboat Springs Police Department officers and Routt County Sheriff's Office deputies, from left, JD Paul, Seth Merrick, Jake Carlson, Evan Noble, Kurtis Luster, and Sam Silva start their timed 300-yard run at the high school track while trying out for a new inter-agency tactical team.
Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs Police Department officer JD Paul holds Doug Scherar's feet while he does sit-ups during joint tactical team tryouts Wednesday at the high school.Matt Stensland

— Routt County's two largest law enforcement agencies are developing a team of their fittest, most skilled officers to serve on the SWAT team.

Officials with the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the Steamboat Springs Police Department say that by creating a team between the two agencies they hope to save money by combining resources and quicken response times.

"We are pooling our resources for a combined tactical ability," Steamboat Police Chief JD Hays said.

Steamboat police have had a tactical team in place since the early '90s. It was formed when the Hells Angels motorcycle club converged on Routt County, said Detective Jerry Stabile, who served on the original team and was trying out for the new team Wednesday. Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch said the Sheriff's Office has not had its own SWAT team but all of the deputies are SWAT certified. That was mandated by former Sheriff Gary Wall, and Birch is thankful the deputies have received that training.

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About a dozen law enforcement officers tried out for the tactical team Wednesday. The goal is to have 12 to 16 people on the team. The training day started on the shooting range, where officers had to complete a series of timed tests. They then headed to the Steamboat Springs High School track for physical fitness tests.

"By the time they get here, they're already feeling it," Steamboat Police Capt. Joel Rae said.

Successful completion of the physical test required doing at least 30 sit-ups in 60 seconds, at least 30 continuous push-ups, a 300-yard dash in 66 seconds, and a 1.5-mile run in 14:30.

The minds of the officers were then tested in the afternoon during an oral exam. Birch and Rae interviewed each of the officers and asked them questions such as what their vision was for the combined tactical team. Selected members then will train together at least one day a month.

Steamboat Police Detective Dave Kleiber has been chosen as the team's leader. He has been the Steamboat SWAT commander the past six years. He was previously a member of the what he described as a very active SWAT team in Anchorage, Alaska. Kleiber also served in the Army for 28 years and spent 11 of those years in the Special Forces.

Kleiber said he is looking forward to the two agencies pooling their training resources and working closer together.

"It's something we identified a long time ago as something that is appropriate for this area," Kleiber said.

Rae said the team would be training to handle situations such as serving high-risk warrants, hostage situations and active shooters.

"If something big happens, we're going to be working together and handling it together," Rae said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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