Memphis Police TACT Unit reinstated after 2 month shutdown - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Memphis Police TACT Unit reinstated after 2 month shutdown

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said the TACT Unit has been reinstated after an eight-week internal review.

MORE: Armstrong to decide future of MPD's TACT Unit

Director Armstrong said the TACT Unit personnel have learned from their mistakes as there were organizational issues during a controversial barricade situation Oct. 15 that lead to two officers being shot and a suspect dead inside a home.

He says they still need updated equipment and more manpower. Armstrong says incendiary ammunition meant for crowd control was used during that mid-October incident. He says should not have been used.

Director Armstrong said budget cuts to his department are hitting specialized teams like the TACT Unit and his elite officers are under-staffed and ill-equipped.

They've gone over the team's tactics, training and equipment. Director Armstrong said the team is in a better position and the officers are ready for their next call.

When you're in danger you call the police but when a police officer needs help they call the TACT Unit.

Major Sam Hines, the new MPD TACT Unit commander, said everything has been overhauled.

"It was an unfortunate situation but it has allowed us a chance to do a lot of training that we probably otherwise would not have gotten an opportunity to get done simply, because we had so many other things to do,"
 Maj. Hines said.

Team members have completed nearly a dozen training classes since the stand down, many of them conducted by the FBI.

Director Armstrong decided to put the team under review after two TACT officers were shot during the Oct. 15 standoff. They were serving an arrest warrant on murder suspect. Officers used tear gas and the house, in which the suspect was holed up, caught fire. He was found dead inside.

"There were several things that made us say that, you know, it might be a good time for us to sit back and make sure that we are using best practices going forward," the police director said.

A review by the MPD's Internal Affairs Bureau found issues with the team's leadership and accountability. Armstrong said the investigation found members of the unit mistakenly used tear gas meant for crowd control on the house the suspect was barricaded in.
 
The tear gas in that ammunition is activated by an incendiary device.  

"The cause of the fire at this point in inconclusive," Director Armstrong said.

Three police commanders in charge of the team on the day of the incident have been reassigned. The director said the TACT officers deserve the best leadership.

"If they're going to put their lives on the line I have to give them the tools to put them in a position as to where they can be successful," the police director said.

The review also found the TACT Unit staffing is about half what it should be and much of the team's equipment is outdated. The director says he plans to double the size of the team and he'll look for money to buy new equipment.

"If we are going to continue, if we're going to ask them to put themselves in harms way, then it's my job to make sure that they get training and equipment that they need to be successful," he said.

Director Armstrong will ask the city council for more money for specialized units like the TACT Unit during next year's budget discussion. He said teams like TACT have taken the brunt of the budget cuts this year.

The team will be putting together a training class for more officers sometime in the next seven months.

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