On the Beat with Lt. Schoeppner

LT. Schoeppner In last month’s newsletter I continued covering the various divisions in the DeKalb Police Department by talking about the Uniform Division. In light of recent events (see below), it seems a good time now to look at the Special Operations Division, where the SWAT team resides.

The Special Operations Division (SOD) is the second largest in the department. It also has the most individual units within it. Here’s a rundown:

The Aerial Support Unit primarily supports uniformed or criminal investigations personnel on the ground. This includes assisting in the location of offenders who have fled from officers, aiding in the location of missing persons or surveying and photographing crime scenes. Dekalb County currently has two helicopters at its disposal.

The Traffic Specialist Unit handles all hit-and-run traffic accidents in DeKalb County. They also reconstruct scenes from fatal traffic accidents.

The SWAT Team is staffed by 12 full-time officers. There are 12 more officers assigned to SWAT whose primary assignment is in the Uniform Division. They are mainly utilized in serving high-risk warrants, performing hostage rescues and engaging heavily armed and barricaded suspects.

The Bomb Squad responds to any bomb or hazardous material related incident. Officers assigned to the bomb squad are trained in identifying, disarming and transporting explosive devices. They also supervise the destruction of explosive devices after they are removed from a scene.

Next is the Strategic Traffic Accident Reduction (STAR) unit. The primary way they accomplish this task is DUI enforcement. They also provide safe driving education programs to the public.
The Strategic Traffic Enforcement and Patrol (STEP) and Motor units provide dedicated traffic enforcement and focused patrol efforts throughout DeKalb County. This is mostly achieved by running laser in problem traffic areas. The STEP unit operates in marked police cars and the Motor units ride motorcycles.

The Warrant and Security Unit primarily serves warrants issued by the traffic division of state court. They also provide security for county buildings and other government events.

The K-9 Unit supports other units in the department by tracking suspected felons, tracking missing persons, controlled substance detection, explosives detection and article searches for evidence that has been discarded by suspects. The K-9 Unit consists of 12 handler/canine teams who maintain certification with the North American Police Working Dog Association.

Officers who have two or more years of experience in the Uniform Division are able to apply for positions within SOD when they become available.


 On June 18 at 2:55 a.m., DeKalb Police officers responded to an alarm call from the Waffle House at 2693 Lawrenceville Highway. Upon arrival, officers made contact with employees of the restaurant who told them that the business had been robbed by two suspects. They also told the officers that the suspects had run in the direction of the Knights Inn across the street.

Those officers directed additional units to the motel, where they observed a suspect described by the victims. Once questioned, this person said the other suspect committed the robbery and directed officers to the room where he was hiding. When officers went to this room they observed the second suspect leaving the room. When he saw the officers he fled back inside the room. Since the suspect was armed and dangerous, the decision was made to call in the SWAT team.

When the SWAT team arrived, they attempted to make contact with the suspect and end the standoff peacefully. The suspect refused to communicate, forcing the officers to deploy tear gas into the room. The suspect still refused to surrender, so the SWAT team had to make entry. They located the suspect hiding in the bathroom. He was taken into custody without further incident and charged with armed robbery.

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