FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Bob Parker

Bob Parker

Lt. Robert Parker served with the Omaha (Neb.) PD for 30 years and commanded the Emergency Response Unit. He is responsible for training thousands of law enforcement instructors in NTOA's Patrol Response to Active Shooters courses.



Jose Medina

Jose Medina

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team and runs Awareness Protective Consultants (Team APC) tactical training.
SWAT

Searches and Raids in the Days Before SWAT

Before the advent of tactical policing, raids were hit-and-miss affairs, as dangerous for the cops as the crooks.

June 26, 2007  |  by Robert O'Brien - Also by this author

For most contemporary law enforcement officers, it is almost impossible to fathom that only 40 years ago, there was no SWAT to conduct high-risk searches and raids. Unfortunately, while there may not have been SWAT, there were bad guys, and the police had to search for them.
Four decades ago in the days before SWAT, most searches and raids were conducted by patrol officers or detectives without special training or equipment. These men went into battle almost naked and unarmed when you compare their equipment to that of today’s SWAT officer.

The mind-boggling list of what wasn’t available 40 years ago includes: semi-auto pistols (.38 revolvers were standard), speed loaders, armor (soft body armor, helmets, and shields/blankets), portable radios, cell phones, flex cuffs, security holsters, listening/viewing devices, light mounts, high-intensity flashlights, video cameras, less-lethal weapons, and raid vehicles.

Imagine going into a raid wearing a six-gun on your hip. The average street cop 40 years ago carried a 4-inch six-shot .38 in a holster that was little more than just a “piece of leather.” His spare ammo was six to 12 rounds in the loops on his gun belt. For backup, many of the cops from that era carried five-shot .38s revolvers with two-inch barrels. Pump 12-gauge shotguns were standard for searches and raids. And forget weapon-mounted lights, cops in the ’60s had unreliable aluminum tube flashlights no better than K-mart specials. They were more effective as clubs than lights.

Pre-raid intel was minimal. The briefing took place on the trunk of a patrol car, and it lasted as long as a huddle in a pickup football game. The “quarterback” was usually a veteran street cop who barked out assignments. He also led the raid, “hitting the door.”

And even “hitting” the door was primitive by today’s standards. Door breaching consisted of kicking doors in by foot or the rare use of a sledgehammer. Depending on the kicker and/or door, the result was literally hit or miss. And of course, the kicker was always first through the door, followed by what could best be described as a “thundering herd” of cops who fanned out through the target without regard to assigned areas. Search techniques were mainly left up to the individual officers, with varying degrees of success. On more than one search/raid after the location had been “secured” hidden criminals were found during the evidence search.

Depending on the agency, there could be as few as two or as many as 30 cops involved in a raid. And, yeah, everyone wanted to go inside. The result was often no rear containment, with numerous foot pursuits in which officers with revolvers or shotguns in their hands, fingers on the trigger ran after the suspects. It’s a miracle more cops weren’t shot in “friendly” fire accidents.

The aftermath of a raid was also less than professional by today’s standards. After-action reports were almost non-existent, and debriefings consisted of fleeting comments between cops such as “We were lucky” or “That was a close call.” Then it was off to the next assignment.

Most street “bosses” (supervisors) allowed the troops a great amount of leeway because they were also masters of the “bail out.” These “bosses” investigated all officer-involved incidents, including shootings. And street cops knew the bosses, administration, courts would back them up, and they counted on the bosses to write their “bail outs.”

During burglaries, veteran cops often boosted (smaller) rookie cops through open windows with orders of “go find the door and open it for us, kid.” This meant that the rookie ended up searching much of the location alone, and often found the bad guys hiding inside, while he was hunting for the door. These rookies often became “tunnel rats” (whether they wanted to or not), searching all crawl spaces, attics, basements. This was the way that veterans “tested” the FNGs to see what they were made of. Grading was pass/fail, OJT at its best.

In the days before SWAT searches and raids, equipment and weaponry, tactics and procedures were all primitive by today’s standards. Since the introduction of SWAT only 40 years ago, law enforcement search and raid tactics, training, and technology are far more sophisticated and effective.

Still, despite all of our sophistication. We should tip our hats to the generation of cops before us who somehow, someway got the job done and managed to survive to collect their well-earned pensions.


Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

yarbrough @ 6/28/2007 5:03 AM

Unfortunately, in many smaller agencies these type of things still occur. Within the last five years I personally observed a multi agency series of narcotic raids where the planning stage consisted of "meet us here, grab a shotgun...let's go!" If you find yourself in this position, step up, step on toes, slow 'em down, and do it right. Realization usually dawns when you start asking "what if" questions, and I found the participants to appreciate a sense of leadership. We continued to assist by providing training.

Join the Discussion





POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Fine Line Between Lawful and Unlawful Protests
There will always be issues and decisions that every citizen may not agree with – it is...
Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red-Dot Optic
With its Micro T-2, Aimpoint has taken a proven winner and made it even better by adding...
Fueling the Flames in Ferguson
So far I have exercised what I consider "commendable restraint" in holding back my public...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Rank:
Agency:
Address:
City:
State:
  
Zip Code:
 
Country:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine