If you're not already aware, the first two months of 2010 are saw an alarming, deadly start to 2010 for law enforcement. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been 33 U.S. and two Canadian line of duty deaths so far in 2010, compared with 17 U.S. and zero Canadian LODDs in 2009.
Disturbingly, the number of gunfire LODDs during January and February has skyrocketed from two in 2009 to 10 in 2010. In a previous blog, I asked if this was merely a passing fad or the start of a deadly new trend. It's still too early to answer definitively, but you need to be aware .
And SWAT is not immune. According to news reports, on Feb. 18 two Ft. Worth SWAT officers were shot and wounded during a drug raid. On Feb. 22, two Schenectady, N.Y., tactical officers were shot and wounded during a search. Fortunately, they were both treated and released.
Then, on the morning Feb. 25, seven Fresno County deputies and four California fire investigators attempted to execute a search warrant resulting from a series of arsons and shootings in rural Minkler, Calif.
According to reports, after repeated knock and announce attempts went unheeded, the officers attempted a forced entry and were met with a barrage of gunfire from the 51-year-old suspect. A veteran Fresno County Sheriff's Department detective was shot, and rescued under continuing gunfire, but succumbed to his wounds. A second deputy was also shot and wounded.
Numerous officers from surrounding agencies responded to the request for help. Approximately 30 minutes later, in another flurry of gunfire, A Reedley officer was shot and critically wounded as he used his patrol car as cover, from 80 yards away (130 yards in one report). Officers returned fire and the officer was transported to an ER. He later died from his wounds.
Two Lenco Bearcat armored rescue vehicles (ARVs) were used to move perimeter personnel farther back and out of the suspect's line of fire. Ultimately as many as 200 officers from many LE agencies responded to the mutual aid calls for assistance. A number of SWAT teams answered the call and worked the inner perimeter.
Amazingly, the suspect's wife, who had been hiding on a bedroom floor, emerged from the double-wide trailer. Eventually, chemical agents were deployed, followed by a robot camera, and then a SWAT entry team. The entry team discovered the suspect DOA. Along with his arsenal of 10 firearms, including two scoped rifles (AR-15 and .243. Subsequent investigation revealed the suspect had repeatedly told his wife he would "take out police" then kill himself before going back to prison.
Given the violence of this incident and SWAT's role in ending it, let's go back to my first question: Is your SWAT team really ready?
What exactly does being really ready entail? It starts with each of us as individuals, as the professionals our profession and the public expect us to be. This entails a commitment to dedication, preparation, training, and above all the right mindset.
If another "Fresno" was to occur in your venue, would you and your SWAT team be ready? Do you train often and realistically enough? Do you have the proper tools to get the job done? If not, do you have access to tools such as ARVs from another agency? Does your team have the proper mindset, individually and collectively?
Professional SWAT officers and teams don't happen by accident. To mold you and your fellow officers into an effective tactical unit takes persistent commitment to excellence, dedication, training, preparation and mindset by all members 24/7, 365 days a year, every year.
The reality is that over time, all SWAT teams and personnel change. Professionalism and excellence must first be established, and then passed down to the next generation, who pass them on to succeeding generations.
This level of professionalism starts with capable, competent leadership with the vision to understand where, and how, to lead their teams. True professionalism is only accomplished when all team members subscribe to the same commitment of excellence.