The police department was no exception and we lost 24 police officer positions (laying off seven officers) and absorbed the remaining reductions through attrition.
With these reductions, we had to look at our core mission and decide what programs and services would need to be eliminated or scaled back. The recent action of the city manager and City Council to add back eight police officers will be a significant help in starting to restore some of our services.
As part of our service strategy, we did not reduce any of the training programs in the department as we felt the department had to be trained to the highest level possible in order to handle critical and high priority calls.
One of the training programs that we kept, and in fact increased, was that of our SWAT team. SWAT teams are used for critical incidents and high risk situations including calls involving hostages and active shooters such as was seen at Virginia Tech and Columbine.
As the chief, I would like to congratulate the Fremont SWAT team for taking first place in the Urban Shield exercises that were held in the Bay Area two weeks ago.
There were 24 teams from as far away as Boston involved in this 50-hour competition in which they were required to work their way through 25 different exercises, including a variety of scenarios.
This competition was the most grueling of any SWAT competitions held around the country, and was tied to issues that involved mass transit, specific targets that might interest any terrorist organization, and other types of events that law enforcement encounters in our job of protecting our communities.
There were a number of full-time SWAT teams and their sole function is to train together daily to maintain proficiency. Team Fremont is a part-time SWAT team whose members carry full-time assignments other than SWAT, an ancillary assignment.
For Team Fremont to come out No. 1 after 50 straight hours of role-playing and scenarios says a lot about the dedication and tenacity of the members of the Fremont Police Department.
It should be a comfort to the citizens of Fremont to know that in a critical incident we have one of the best teams in the country. More than 20 officers of the Fremont Police Department are members of the SWAT team, and eight of them formed to represent the city of Fremont in this competition.
Their efforts and success speak volumes for the type of employee the Fremont Police Department hires to protect our community.
I would like to assure our citizens that their police department, as is all city staff, is working hard to come back from the downturn of five years ago and that in a true emergency, the community will find that all the members of the police department are trained to take the appropriate action to safeguard the lives of our citizens.
Again, my thanks to the individual members of the SWAT team who demonstrated our motto of "A Continuing Tradition of Excellence."
Craig Steckler, a Fremont resident, has been a member of the Fremont Police Department for 20 years, the last 15 as chief of police.