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Tis the Season for Mayhem and Madness—So Be Safe

Anybody who wants a peaceful holiday season should avoid law enforcement, and especially, SWAT duty.

December 22, 2008  |  by Robert O'Brien - Also by this author

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 129 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty this year. That's the bad news. The good news is this number (while still too high) is significantly lower than 2007's 188 officer total.

As the year draws to a close, the holiday season is upon us. However, for some professions-notably, police, fire, military, emergency medical, etc.-the holidays are often busier than the rest of the year. Those in these professions, along with their families, understand and accept this as a fact of life.

While the winter holidays bring out the best in most people, they bring out the worst in some others. When people are at their worst, that's when police are called in to straighten it all out. Most of the time successfully, but sometimes not.

Those in patrol know that domestics and disturbances tend to rise during holiday season, when emotions running higher than normal, often result in violence. SWAT also knows the holidays are when callups tend to increase in both frequency and intensity.

In patrol, you literally hold your breath, hoping you'll make it through your shift without someone assaulting, stabbing, shooting or otherwise harming others - because emotions are running high. If you get through your shift unscathed, you consider yourself fortunate and so does your family.

In addition to patrol, there are other assignments - detectives, dispatchers, corrections, etc. that are required to work the holidays in our 365 day a year profession. For a fortunate few, holidays might fall on their day off. But for most, that's not the case.

Same with SWAT officers, who even when they are off duty, are still on call-24/7. SWAT officers know and accept this, and so do their families. It always seemed to me that we saw a spike in SWAT callouts during the holiday season, from mid November through mid January.

Some of the "worst" SWAT callouts my team ever had were during this time. And it seemed callouts came in clusters of threes. And "Mr. Murphy" often brought us callouts right before, during. or after our annual traditional Christmas parties. One such callout a number of years ago comes readily to mind.

We'd just arrived at our party (paid for out of pocket). It was snowing heavily, looking like a scene from Currier & Ives. That's when all our team pagers went off at once. We caravanned to the SWAT base, geared up, and headed out to the incident in a driving snowstorm.

A male suspect had gone berserk and was throwing all the furniture in his parents house through the upstairs windows, shattering it on the driveway below. District patrol personnel made a number of attempts to reach him via the rear stairs, the only access to the second floor. The suspect repulsed their attempts by throwing plates, glasses, knives,  and a microwave down the stairs at them. That's when they called for SWAT.

Having been so "rudely interrupted" from our Christmas party, we were in no mood to negotiate. So once on scene, we immediately charged up the rear stairs, dodging everything the suspect threw down at us.

Once upstairs, the now cornered, shirtless, snarling, "growling" berserk male went into a combat crouch. Our "negotiations" consisted of a full, direct blast of pepper spray to the face, followed by an immediate "swarm" gang tackle and flex cuffs. It was over before it began, less than five minutes start to finish.

We turned the now docile, subdued suspect over to patrol, returned to the SWAT base, secured equipment and went back to enjoy our Christmas party.

I wish all of you, and your families, a safe and merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year. And I hope that your festivities and family gatherings will not be interrupted by a callout.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

JWC6617 @ 12/25/2008 9:25 PM

Sometimes there is only one way to handle it...
Stay Safe everyone!

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