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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.

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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.

Four SWAT Teams in Trouble

SWAT teams across the country are being disbanded or disciplined for various offenses.

April 02, 2008  |  by Robert O'Brien - Also by this author

Those who follow the world of SWAT are watching the controversy currently unfolding in LAPD SWAT. I'm referring to the recent "modification" of long-standing LAPD SWAT entrance standards, instituted by LAPD Chief Bratton. The modifications are based on the January 2007 recommendations by a panel of experts convened after a tragic fatal shooting of an infant during the July 10, 2005 hostage shootout with the infant's father.

The modifications of LAPD SWAT's long-standing stringent standards are viewed by many as lowering the standards, with dire predictions for the future of both SWAT and LAPD. Another incident under intense scrutiny is the controversial May 2007 Cinco de Mayo crowd handling by LAPD Metropolitan B Platoon, which resulted in demotions and the temporary suspension of the B Platoon.

This situation is unfolding right in front of our eyes, and bears close scrutiny by the entire SWAT world. That's because LAPD SWAT has long been considered a leader when it comes to SWAT standards and tactics that have been adopted across the entire nation.

Coincidentally, the timing for modifying LAPD's SWAT entry standards couldn't come at a worse time—right on the heels of the recent tragic shooting death of LAPD SWAT officer Randy Simmons and the critical wounding of his partner Jimmy Veestra in February 2008.

Stay tuned—because "what happens in L.A., doesn't necessarily stay in L.A."

Take the "near miss" by Chicago PD SWAT. CPD SWAT, a full-time unit, was one of a number of specialized units that made up the CPD Special Operations Section (SOS). In October 2007, the CPD SOS was disbanded—after seven CPD SOS Drug/Gang officers were charged with felony robberies, kidnappings, and in one case a murder-for-hire plot of a fellow police officer.

No CPD SWAT officers were charged with any misconduct. However, 16 officers were transferred out of CPD SWAT—with no reason given for their removal. The disbanded SOS was replaced by the new Special Functions Group—which includes SWAT.

As with LAPD, CPD's timing for transferring 16 officers out of SWAT comes at a curious time. That's because only 10 months prior to their transfers, CPD SWAT was hailed as "lifesaving heroes" for shooting and killing a rampaging downtown skyscraper gunman who had killed three people. In spite of SWAT's heroic actions, and not being involved in any criminal activity, 16 officers were summarily transferred out of SWAT.

"What occurred in SOS, didn't necessarily stay there—just ask CPD SWAT."

Lest anyone think things like this only happen in the "big city," the examples of two other SWAT teams from much smaller departments should set the record straight.

The first team is Hoboken (N.J.) PD SWAT. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, HPD SWAT participated in two humanitarian missions to Louisiana. In September 2005, HPD SWAT delivered much needed relief supplies. In February 2006, HPD SWAT participated in the security of New Orleans Mardi Gras.

All went well until after their return to New Jersey when they found themselves amid widespread publicity and controversy over HPD SWAT posing (with weapons) with Hooters waitresses in Alabama. The controversy launched a series of intense investigations, resulting in nine SWAT officers being charged with various department, and possible state, charges/violations. Both the HPD SWAT Lieutenant and Chief of Police also posed for some of the photos, resulting in the SWAT Lieutenant's suspension, and the Chief of Police's retirement.

The entire Hoboken PD SWAT team was summarily disbanded in November 2007, amid ongoing state and local investigations.

"What happened in Louisiana, definitely didn't stay in Louisiana."

The final team is the Eureka (Calif.) SWAT team. On April 14, 2006, EPD SWAT was called out for a female barricaded with a flare gun. On scene were the EPD SWAT Lieutenant and Chief of Police, who set up a CP in another portion of the building the female was barricaded in.

Approximately two hours into the incident, the female put the flare gun down, and the Chief and SWAT Lieutenant gave the "Go" for a crisis entry. Upon entry, the female confronted SWAT with the flare gun, and SWAT fired in self-defense, killing the female.

What happened next is unprecedented in the annals of SWAT. Amid swirling controversy over the shooting, in 2007 the District Attorney filed felony manslaughter criminal charges against both EPD Chief of Police and EPD SWAT Lieutenant because they "issued orders" for SWAT to make the entry that ended in the fatal confrontation.

EPD hired a new Chief to replace the indicted previous Chief. The SWAT Lieutenant remains a member of EPD. The DA offered "transactional immunity" to the SWAT entry "shooters" in exchange for their testimony against the Chief and Lieutenant.

In 2007 the Eureka PD SWAT team was disbanded.

"What occurred in Eureka, appears to have stayed in Eureka."

These four horror stories involve very different SWAT teams/agencies and circumstances. And anyone who dares to think "it can't happen here" is sadly mistaken. Just ask LAPD, CPD, HPD, and EPD SWAT—and they'll set you straight.

Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

asr22 @ 4/2/2008 12:02 PM

Go figure a bunch of liberals that know nothing.

irishone @ 4/2/2008 2:05 PM

I posted the LA Times article you reference in your article a couple of weeks ago on the forum boards, but there was no public discussion of how Bratton is screwing up LAPD in general. He is a politician first and foremost. Officers are guilty before an investigation is ever commenced, this is wrong.....But, Bratton is better than the two nitwits they had prior to him taking charge. Bring back Daryl Gates!

dawgupp @ 4/2/2008 4:27 PM

God help us all. Working in Socal is becoming a nightmare. I have been assigned the collateral duty on SWAT for 20+ years now. It is a shame to see the direction things appear to be headed.

I must admit posing with Hooters waitresses is not smart. The public's perception says it all. Hindsight is 2-0-20 but do we as LE professionals need to be in that kind of situation in uniform? I'd like to think we are better than that although some of my peers see no problem with it. You play you just may pay...

The arbitrary transfers are simply "political expidient" management. Instead of fighting for the officers who are not wrong it is far easier to trash them and transfer them showing the management has done something...even when it's the wrong thing.

D Platoon is the target of opportunity here in SoCal. It's a shame. They are simply quality officers doing a very hard job. They have suffered two losses. the loss of Officer Simmons and the first loss of a hostage. There go I but for the grace of God. Yet once again the politicians are clamoring to "do something". And management is responding...

A sad state of affairs to be sure. I am glad I am not in the beginnings of my career. The light at the end of the tunnel is growing. I can't help but worry it might be a train...

lawdog1964 @ 4/2/2008 8:57 PM

Ive been in law enforcement alot of years, and Im here to tell you boys, and girls, in the last six years, politics has completely taken over, and all of us on the frontlines doing the real work are being used in this pathetic political toilet as stepping stones for the polititicians, The sad fact is more and more departments are being taken over and run by bumbling liberals that have never been on the streets, or have been riding a desk for the last 20 years, Im afraid its going to get alot worse!!

scottan @ 4/3/2008 6:06 AM

Unfortunately liberals are taking over and have no clue. My personal choice is to stay out of Hooters when in uniform.

My area has High School football, basketball, soccer, baseball, etc....having team pics made with Hooters girls and the Hooters Hummer. I take issue with someone who thinks the Police shouldnt do it. Most likely the same folks who's kids were in the team pics!

When will the clammor start about the Fire and some Police guys with their scantilly clad pin up calenders they make of themselves to drum up money for their unit/station or charity? Hooters is nothing in the big picture.

Politics is really screwing everything up. Not just Police work.

ROB ROY @ 4/4/2008 5:33 PM

It's going to get to the point where all of us are going to say f*** it and quit before we get arrested or fired and then what are the liberal idiot's going to do with the ensuing anarchy then?

gmcmanus @ 4/6/2008 10:31 PM

The portion of this article about EPD is not very accurate.

First of all, The Team was not directly disbanded as a result of this one shooting. For some other reasons the membership of the Team dwindled to six. The new Chief decided that this amount of Operators was insufficient to field on an operation. So, until the Team could increase its membeship, he took the Team offline. Humboldt S/O's Team is temporarily handling any SWAT needs for Eureka.

Secondly, Chief Douglas retired horoably on schedule and was not replaced due to the indictiment. Lt. Zanotti stills serves his standard duties with the full confidence of the new Chief.

Thirdly, the Humoldt D.A. did not file on the EPD Team Operators/Officers because they were cleared in the shooting review board. These Officers will undoubtely be testifying in the trail, but I very seriously doubt it will be "against" the Chief and Lieutenant. They'll be testifying to what occured when they went in.

I work in a neighboring agency and have known these men for a very long time. They are suffering through this as the true professionals they have been their entire careers.

Some of the verbage in this article (at least about the EPD portion) almost sounds like it came from the Humbodlt D.A. with the twisted perspective that man has always had.

andrew @ 4/30/2008 3:06 PM

Very good article. However gmcmanus gave some light on EPD. I agree that politics making our life hard.

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