PELHAM — After Joseph Roark became the new police chief in Pelham, he stepped away from his spot on the Southern New Hampshire Special Operations Unit (SNHSOU).
This created an opening for Master Patrolman Eugene Stahl.
Stahl, now four months into his SNHSOU training, completed a Strategic Weapons And Tactics course (SWAT I) in Worcester on June 29. SWAT I and SWAT II are one-week training sessions taught by the Los Angeles Police Department. Stahl is scheduled for SWAT II training beginning July 9.
“It’s the best training available for the police,” Stahl said. “I learned as much as I could from it.”
Stahl, 28, said the hands-on training of SWAT I covered a broad range of tactical areas, from equipment handling to entering and clearing buildings. The SWAT II training, according to Stahl, puts the focus on hostage rescue and shooting.
“The final exercise (in SWAT I) was as a team we had to enter a house successfully and search it,” Stahl said.
The training included 40 officers from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine.
“There were members from eight different SWAT teams,” Stahl said. “There were seven of us (from SNHSOU) training there.”
Stahl said he wanted to join the unit for the excitement, among other things.
“I like the excitement of it,” Stahl said. “The training alone is the best for cops and there’s a lot of camaraderie within the unit.”
Stahl has seven years of experience on the Pelham Police Department and is the department’s K-9 officer. Stahl will be joined by his patrol partner, Zahn, a 3-year-old German shepherd, on the SNHSOU, which already has another K-9 tandem, with a dog from Londonderry on the unit.
“We do use K-9 (in the unit),” Stahl said. “They are used to search buildings and if a suspect flees in the woods.”
Stahl is never far from Zahn or his police cruiser and SNHSOU gear, even at home. This allows Stahl to respond quickly to calls even when off duty.
Stahl, who replaced Roark, is not the only Pelham officer on the SNHSOU. He joins fellow Master Patrolman Glen Chase is as the Pelham representatives on the unit.
“This is a prestigious position,” said Chase, who has nine years experience on the force in Pelham and four years of service with the SNHSOU. “You need to be dedicated and you need to take it seriously because a call can come at any time.”
Chase said another important part of the training is bringing it back to share with their fellow officers in the department.
Chase and Stahl said they can respond to any call as long there is an officer available to cover for them in Pelham.
“It’s all about manpower,” Chase explained. “The only way we can’t respond if there is minimal staffing and if we are unable to fill a position.”
The Southern New Hampshire Special Operations Unit (SNHSOU) includes 56 highly trained personnel from Derry, Hudson, Litchfield, Londonderry, Pelham, Raymond, Salem, Windham and Atkinson.
The unit includes 38 tactical officers, seven negotiators, three emergency physicians (from Parkland Medical Center in Derry) and eight firefighter/paramedics.
Derry Police has the most members with six tactical officers and three negotiators; they also provide three of the paramedics.According to Pelham Police Chief Joseph Roark, each community has dedicated 10 percent of its force to the regional unit.
Derry Police Chief Edward Garone serves as the president of the unit and Captain George Feole, also of Derry, is the unit commander.
Officers in the unit must have at least three years service in their police department, no disciplinary issues, along with a recommendation from their chief and an interview with Feole and other lieutenants in the unit. Before becoming an active member, the officer must complete psychological and physical tests, qualifications of firearms and SWAT I and SWAT II.
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