New DuPage County police task force prepares for mass shootings

In a FOX 32 special report, we take a look at a new crime fighting team in action.

In the western suburbs, police departments are pooling their resources to create what they call, "the best of the best."

FOX 32 got a rare, close up look at training for a major new task force in DuPage County -- designed to save money and lives.

The newly assembled SWAT team practices dangerous scenarios in DuPage County, knowing it could happen in real life.

“They knew that in a moment's notice, they would pack up all their training gear and convert that over to a real world situation,” said Chief Anthony Romanelli of the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office.

Romanelli oversees a new DuPage County task force called “MERIT” – which stands for Metropolitan Emergency Response and Investigation Team.

With mass violence drastically increasing nationwide, DuPage County decided to respond as one. Thirty-seven agencies pooled people, equipment and money.

“As the world evolves, law enforcement evolves too. We need to have a well-orchestrated, well-tuned group of professionals to handle these situations,” Romanelli said.

SWAT is just part of it. MERIT includes investigators, forensics, crash scene reconstruction and more to respond quickly to large or high-risk events.

First, though, they have to practice working together. At a shuttered West Chicago plant, merged SWAT teams prepare for barricade situations, hostage stand-offs and even mass shootings.

“We know that it exists and it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when for us,” Romanelli said.

Deputy Chief Jason Cates of Oakbrook police points to the workplace shooting in Aurora back in February. Not only did the shooter kill five people, but he also wounded five responding officers.

“The offender recognized that the police were coming and waited to ambush those police officers as they were arriving, so we take a look at that and we recognize that's something that's changed, that's something that's a little bit different,” Cates said.

As criminals change, so do police.