The Westmoreland District Attorney’s Office recently awarded Lower Burrell Police $105,000 for equipment for the Westmoreland SWAT team.
The money comes from assets seized in drug trafficking cases, which are confiscated from the DA’s investigative fund. It is distributed to law enforcement agencies to enforce the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics Act.
Lower Burrell had requested the funding to be used by the regional SWAT team.
The SWAT team includes police officers from New Kensington; Lower Burrell; Murryville; Vandergrift; and the townships of Allegheny, Washington and Upper Burrell. It serves the seven communities that have members on the team, said Lower Burrell Police Chief John Marhefka.
An eighth community is interested and may sign in the future, said.
Other communities in the Alle-Kiski Valley rely on the State Police Critical Response Team or other teams, Marhefka said.
The Westmoreland team responds to just over 18 calls a year, Marhefka said.
Calls typically involve barricaded situations, high-risk warrant service, and civil unrest.
“The team is an indispensable and valuable part of law enforcement,” Marhefka said.
The money from the district attorney’s office will be used to replace and update the SWAT team’s protective and communications gear, he said.
“The team is very grateful for this funding to stay active and well equipped,” Marhefka said.
Local officials, such as Upper Burrell supervisor Ross Walker, said a regional SWAT team is essential for local communities as it provides faster response times than the police critical response team of state.