Sacramento County was incorporated in 1850 as one of the original 27 counties of the State of California. The County’s largest city, the City of Sacramento, is the seat of government for the State of California and also serves as the county seat. Sacramento became the State Capital in 1854. The County is the major component of the Sacramento Metropolitan Statistical Area (“SMSA”) which includes Sacramento, El Dorado, and Placer Counties.
Sacramento County encompasses approximately 994 square miles in the middle of the 400-mile long Central Valley, which is California’s prime agricultural region. The County is bordered by Contra Costa and San Joaquin Counties on the south, Amador and El Dorado Counties on the east, Placer and Sutter Counties on the north, and Yolo and Solano Counties on the west. Sacramento County extends from the low delta lands between the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers north to about ten miles beyond the State Capitol and east to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The southernmost portion of Sacramento County has direct access to the San Francisco Bay.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Detail (SED) is the Department’s elite SWAT unit. The SED is a component of the Sheriff’s Department Narcotics/Gang Division. Their stated mission is to provide highly trained and coordinated special weapons and tactics teams for unusual high-risk and unique events and to provide support to the other units within the Narcotics/Gang Division.
The team is an all-volunteer force composed of experienced deputies drawn from various divisions within the Department. All personnel is volunteers who serve on the team without any additional compensation. The team is currently composed of 14 full-time members and 6 Auxiliary members. The full-time members are assigned to the Narcotics/Gang Division and on a daily basis. Their assignments include:
- Tactical training
- Work on high profile street enforcement
- Serving high-risk search warrants.
Auxiliary team members are deputies who have left the full-time team to go to other assignments. They have prior tactical experience and are required to train with the full-time team twice a month to maintain their abilities and knowledge.
Team members are on call to respond to incidents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On a moment’s notice, the team could be called on to respond a tactical situation that involves an armed barricaded subject, a hostage situation, or any other high-risk situation that requires their specialized training and abilities.
One example of this occurred on April 4, 1991, when the SED became involved in what would become the largest hostage rescue operation in US history, not to mention the team’s best-known operation to date. That afternoon four armed Asian males entered “The Good Guys” electronics store, and took approximately 50 customers and staff hostage. The SED, which was in the process of preparing to serve a high-risk drug warrant, along with the Department’s Critical Incident Negations Team (CINT), and other local and state law enforcement agencies responded to the incident.
The SED immediately to up positions around the store, and the CINT began a dialog with the hostage takers. After several hours of negations with the hostage takers, their demands and behavior became more and more erratic. They demanded everything from a helicopter to fly them to Thailand to 1,000-year-old Ginseng roots. The only constant demanded they issued was for bulletproof vests. The hostage-takers then shot one of the male hostages in the leg and threatened to begin executing the remainder of their hostages if their demands were not met immediately. The SED was given the OK, to assault the store and free the hostages. During the ensuing assault, three of the hostage takers were killed and the fourth was wounded. Three of the hostages were killed, and three others were wounded by the hostage takers before the SED could free them. Although several hostages were killed or wounded, the fact that so many escaped without injury is a tribute to the skill and professionalism of the SED.
SED members are trained in a variety of skills including tactical shooting, tactical entry, the use of distraction devices, chemical agents, helicopter insertions, rappelling, fast roping, and other skills. The SED also regularly conducts training with other Sheriff’s Department units such as the CINT, the Explosive Ordnance Unit (EOU), and the Air Operations Unit. They have also trained with the San Francisco PD, the LAPD, and the California Highway Patrol.
The team’s arsenal is well equipped with a wide variety of weapons systems. SED deputies are known to use Sig-Arms P-220 9mm pistols as either their primary entry weapon or as a backup weapon. They are also equipped with the universally popular HK MP-5 series of 9mm sub-machineguns (in both the regular and sound suppressed SD model). Colt AR-15/M-16 5.56mm rifles are also issued. Unit Snipers are equipped with the Remington 700 .308 Police rifle. 37mm gas guns, chemical, and distraction devices are also used.