SWAT Paramedics Benched As Union Deal Expires

"Of course we'd like to have them back. They are essential to the people of Dade County"

The highly trained teams with the most firepower on Thursday in Miami-Dade were on two calls. But NBC Miami has learned that SWAT is travelling with just part of their team. Two paramedics, trained as SWAT officers, were not on the calls today.

"Of course we'd like to have them back. They are essential to the people of Dade County," said Capt. Thomas Hanlon, from Miami-Dade SWAT.

The two paramedics who enter buildings as members of SWAT, and who technically belong to the fire rescue department, have been sidelined since last week, when the agreement with the fire department's union that allowed them to be assigned to SWAT ran out. This at a time shortly after the department lost two officers serving a search warrant -- a warrant some inside the department believe should have been handled by SWAT.

"We had an understanding with the union that expired on March 31st," Chief Robert Palestrant, with Miami Dade Fire Rescue, said. "It's huge. We have had a number of police officers who have been shot, especially the deaths of the police officers in Miami-Dade."

The SWAT paramedics joined the team several years ago, after officer Gus Hernandez was shot in the face.

"We kept pushing and pushing and trying to do this for many years," Capt. Hanlon said, "and when Gus got shot, this finally showed people the definite need for it. That couple of minutes that might have saved their lives where they bled out. That person can now address that."

Commissioner Barbara Jordon pushed for the paramedics at the beginning and is working today to get them back on the road right away.
"The Chief has identified resources to continue the training," Jordon said. "So today we are hoping that we can get that extension signed between the fire department and the union so those guys can be back over there as soon as possible."

The fire union did not return our calls.

The efforts to get the paramedics are underway. The Commission, fire department and police hope to get a deal worked out to put the paramedics back with the SWAT team soon.
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