July 25th, 2024

Tactical team celebrates 50th year


By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on June 18, 2024.

Herald photo by Justin Seward One of many armoured vehicles was on display during the 50th anniversary celebration for the Lethbridge Police Service Tactical Unit on Saturday.

The Lethbridge Police Service Tactical Team was established in December,1974 and now this year it is celebrating 50 years as a unit within the city police force.

A 50-year reunion was held at the police range on Saturday where former and current tactical team members could look at the tactical team vehicles and equipment, reminisce and shoot a gun on the range followed by a barbecue.

“It comes down to the dedication of the guys and girls that have been on the team over the past,” said Sgt. Denton Michelson, current tactical team commander.

“It’s kind of cool being surrounded by guys that were here 50 years ago. We have three members that were on the original team and they were pioneers … They paved the path for us and it made (it) a lot easier for us to be where we our right now.”

Changes that Michelson has noticed is the use of technology – drones, robots and armoured vehicles.

“We have lots of less lethal options now and all of it is just to keep the community safe, keep us safe and at the end keeping some of our subjects safe as well,” said Michelson.

Michelson loves being in high stress situations.

“I love (having) to make decisions, key decisions, decisions that are going to affect (lives). So I like the pressure that comes with that. But mostly it’s about the camaraderie, it’s about the guys that I serve with, that they all are like-minded and they all want to do the best that they can and at a high level.”

A highlight for Michelson was the hostage taking at Lethbridge Legal Guidance a couple years ago.

“Had we not been there, that wouldn’t have been a positive outcome, it would have been a negative outcome, she wouldn’t have survived that. So that’s something we’re really proud of,” said Michelson.

The tactical team gets deployed as many as 20 times a year to high-risk situations.

Michelson’s great uncle Glen Michelson was present and he was the first-ever tactical team commander team 50 years ago.

“It was a real responsibility and you had a lot of things to learn, and to do and you had a little bit of equipment but not much equipment to use,” said Glen.

It was about taking a lot of chances back then for Glen and his team without the equipment that is available today.

“We didn’t have the equipment for personal protection,” said Glen.

Leonard Kolpak, like Glen Michelson, was one of the original members and enjoyed being on the team.

“It’s something that I enjoyed doing,” said Kolpak.

“It was very important given the fact that serious, dangerous incidents were starting to occur more and more often. I was a firearms instructor, I enjoyed training the men to be the best they could be in their shooting.”

Kolpak felt honoured to be a part of the 50-year event.

“That’s why I wore this specific uniform that we acquired back in 1975, just to show them that here’s where it started and there’s no way you can compare it to what it’s evolved to now. The advances that are made in this field are just giant leaps.”

Kolpak, Michelson and Bill Plomp were three of the five founding tactical team members who were on hand.

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