Sagamore sergeant makes a difference as SWAT team member

by Laura Bednar

Sergeant Ken Wolf works full time for the Sagamore Hills Police Department, but he doesn’t hang up his badge at the end of his shift. Wolf is a member of the Metro SWAT team, comprised of officers from 20 agencies in Summit and Portage counties, and is on-call 24/7.

Wolf has been with the Sagamore department for 23 years, two years as a dispatcher and 21 as an officer. He has held the rank of sergeant for 10 years. He has been with Metro SWAT for five years.

Police Chief David Hayes said Wolf was chosen for the SWAT team based on his seniority, leadership, physical fitness and shooting ability. The population of a city or township determines how many officers can join Metro SWAT.

Previously, Sagamore police relied on the Summit County Sheriff for help in high-risk situations. Hayes said he chose to sign on to Metro SWAT because it has a team of 40 prepared to act on a situation and is physically closer to Sagamore.

Metro SWAT offers assistance in high-risk situations such as a hostage rescue, barricaded subject and search and rescue. In the event of a barricaded subject, officers set up a perimeter around the person’s location. SWAT officers act as negotiators, and five to 10 officers prepare for active entry if need be, according to Wolf.

“It’s a situation where a person doesn’t want to be taken into custody and [in some cases] has made threats,” said Wolf, adding that the goal is to negotiate a peaceful surrender.

He gave an example of a barricaded person in Springfield Township. Metro SWAT members negotiated for over six hours before entering the home. That was the second time SWAT had come to that location.

A Metro SWAT team also pilots drones over heavily wooded areas during search and rescue operations. In one instance, an elderly man was missing after walking out of an assisted living facility. As Wolf was preparing to help search for the man, the drone team located him using a thermal sensor to detect his body heat.

“The biggest resource is manpower,” Wolf said of the search and rescue team.

Last year, Metro SWAT aided the Ohio State Highway Patrol in finding a man who threatened a vehicle repair worker with a firearm on I-271 in Summit County and also struck a Richfield police cruiser with his truck and fled on foot.

Search and rescue was part of Wolf’s training for Metro. He said an item was placed in the woods, and his team was tasked with finding the object based on information provided. One training session took place at the Ravenna arsenal, now called the James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center, which spans over a thousand acres.

Wolf attended basic SWAT school and annually trains two days a month and one full week in October. Training includes physical tasks like pushups and running in full uniform as well as hostage training. Six times a year, Wolf said he practices shooting at SWAT and department ranges. He is Sagamore’s firearms instructor.

“The training Sergeant Wolf receives is a benefit to him, and then he brings it back to the department,” said Hayes.

By working in Metro SWAT, Wolf said he intends to create the best impression of the Sagamore department with the ultimate goal of “making communities as safe as possible.” ∞

Photo: Sgt. Ken Wolf has been with the Metro SWAT team for five years. Photo courtesy of Ken Wolf.