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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

Perception: The Difference Between Heroes and Villains

Starkly differing views by the public and media of raids resulting in the killing of Osama bin Laden and an Arizona Marine are troubling.

June 17, 2011  |  by Robert O'Brien - Also by this author

Most Americans would agree that the mission into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden was accomplished by true American warrior heroes — U.S. Spec Ops led by Navy SEAL Team Six.

Meanwhile, back in America, there's another ongoing war seemingly without end — the war on crime. And just as Spec Ops spearhead the U.S. military in the war on terror, SWAT spearheads American LE on the war on crime.

For both military Spec Ops and police SWAT, high-risk raids or searches are considered a tactical mainstay. Here are a few recent examples:

The Putnam County (Fla.) Sheriff's Department's SWAT conducted a high-risk warrant service on a trailer home on May 4. Two female occupants opened fire on SWAT, striking and critically wounding a deputy in the arm and shoulder, missing his ballistic vest. His life was saved by the on-scene medic. One suspect was shot and wounded (critical) and the other surrendered without further incident.

The Canton (Ohio) PD's SWAT conducted a high-risk warrant service on a residence on May 6. A 62-year-old male occupant attempted to escape through a second-floor window, pointing his firearm at SWAT containment. The suspect then went back inside, shot at SWAT entry officers. SWAT shot and killed the suspect with return fire. One entry officer was struck by a bullet fragment, possibly fired by containment personnel. Other suspects were arrested without incident.

In Olympia, Wash., a multi-jurisdictional tactical unit conducted a high-risk warrant service on June 6. A bullet from a male occupant struck a SWAT entry officer in the arm and then hit his ballistic vest. The suspect surrendered without further incident.

And lastly, Pima County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Department's SWAT officers conducted a high-risk warrant service on a residence on May 5. A second warrant service was also conducted simultaneously that morning. The tragedy that happened next has exploded into one of the most criticized, controversial SWAT incidents in memory. 

Pre-raid intel included involvement in home invasions, weapons, and body armor. The occupants included a recently discharged Iraq combat veteran U.S. Marine, his wife and young child. The Marine was home after working the night shift at his job in a mine.

PCSD SWAT knocked and announced, and then forced entry into the residence. Almost immediately, SWAT was confronted by the Marine, who pointed an AR-15 at them. Believing they were under fire, SWAT fired 71 bullets in a matter of seconds. The team went into barricaded subject mode.

Meanwhile, the wife called 911 to get medical help for her husband, Jose Guerena. She and two children eventually emerged unhurt from inside the home. A remote robot discovered Guerena dead with the AR-15 laying nearby.

The public and media outcry was immediate and massive — all of it condemning PCSD and especially SWAT. The public and media demanded answers. PCSD gave the standard response that the incident is still under investigation; this only fanned the flames of criticism further. And soon, the PCSD sheriff and a Tucson TV station were trading verbal barbs at each other.

Ultimately, PCSD released its findings, including video of the SWAT entry and shooting and its 500-page report. For many, it was too little, too late. The damage was already done, especially on the Internet where the PCSD video has gone viral, and was accompanied by widespread condemnation.

Clearly, there's a vast gap in public and media opinion about how to view the Navy SEAL OBL raid compared to the PCSD SWAT raid. The Navy SEALs are universally portrayed as heroes; the SEALs are getting the benefit of the doubt and rightfully so. In stark contrast, PCSD gets no such benefit of the doubt, while being wrongly portrayed by many as villains.

I strongly suspect PCSD SWAT officers are the same as the overwhelming majority of LEOs everywhere — dedicated, honorable professionals sworn to uphold the law. Many are married with children. And many, especially in SWAT, are military combat veterans.

What happened in Arizona on May 5 is a tragedy for all involved. Who gets the benefit of the doubt will largely depend not necessarily on the truth itself, but on the perception of that truth. And we need to remember there are two sides to this tragic story.

Which side do we believe? The one we feed.

Related:

Fla. SWAT Medic Saves Shot Deputy

Ariz. SWAT Officers Cleared In Marine's Shooting

A Plan Is a Plan, Until...

Tags: Pima County (Ariz.) Sheriff, Building Raids, Military-related, SWAT Tactics, Osama bin Laden


Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

Blaine Nay @ 6/20/2011 7:10 PM

In this case, the deputies apparently were justified in shooting Jose Guerena -- but only because he presented a firearm. However, was the raid itself justified? I doubt it. Most of these raids, in my opinion, are not necessary. They only increase the risk for citizens, cops, and even family pets to a level which can only be justified in apprehending unusually dangerous persons. Using deadly force to prevent a suspect from flushing a few ounces of of dope is irrational and reckless. It clearly damages the precious rapport between law enforcement and the people they claim to serve. High-risk raids or searches should be very rare. I doubt that even a dozen year nationwide could be reasonably justified.

mtarte @ 6/21/2011 12:12 PM

Blaine, are you an officer? I'm glad we use SWAT to conduct high risk warrants. Years ago, I was the uniform for a search warrant for the narcs. My job was to knock, announce and then be the first in the door. I had a .38 revolver and when we made entry, we found a machine gun resting on sandbags at the end of the entry way. The only reason he didn't use it was that he was using the toilet. If he had, me and about 8 other officers would have been toast. Having SWAT with their training and equipment is essential these days. BTW, we got more than a few ounces. As I recall, the narcs recovered about 2 kilos of meth.

ROSCOELSE @ 6/21/2011 1:08 PM

SURVEIL the house,follow him when he leaves,arrest him in secluded location,also,turn off all utilities,use infrared monitoring equipment.Try using your head,instead of your testosterone.

Interesting @ 6/22/2011 9:59 AM

Wow....

"However, was the raid itself justified? I doubt it." Interesting. Let us in on your inside information instead of making a comment.

"Using deadly force to prevent a suspect from flushing a few ounces of of dope is irrational and reckless." I would agree, but where in the story was this mentioned.

"SURVEIL the house,follow him when he leaves,arrest him in secluded location,also,turn off all utilities,use infrared monitoring equipment.Try using your head,instead of your testosterone." So they used their testosterone?

I rarely read stories here anymore and especially the comments.

HENRY @ 7/6/2011 10:40 PM

I have a question for all of you people who have never served or been on a Police department... How do you even have any facts to back up your opinions or your allegations of misconduct by The PCSD S.W.A.T Team? I am just trying to say hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20. I suggest if you have a better way to operate, then pick up a weapon and stack up, or shut up.

texas grasshopper @ 7/9/2011 4:23 AM

hey Henry , that guy who was killed by the SWAT was stacked up but didnt shoot ..by all apparent information he was trying to protect his family and LEO had bad Intell Then the lies issued by the Police trying to cover up their screwed up Operation made it worse . Us older and retired LEO's are sick of watchig SWAT teams and Police declaring war on Americans. If you want to play WAR jion the Military and fight overseas . Police Tactics are alienating the majority of Americans . Why do you need tanks and helicoptors in every little town ? WTF !!!

Greg Nullet @ 7/9/2011 6:08 PM

I sort of get the bin Laden connection. He's someone else who wanted to kill U.S. Marines. I think the SEAL Team Six would be concerned about being compared to the Pima county posse that did the deed.

Here's a quick history lesson for you narco-warriors. In December 1970 Elvis Presley drove up to the White House to visit the President. He brought a .45 cal. pistol as a gift and offered to work undercover for the Bureau of Narcotics as a special agent. Perhaps smelling political gold; six months later Nixon announced the War on Drugs. Heck, with Elvis on your side, what could go wrong? And the Elvis imprimatur has carried through for the last 40 years. We see it in the peckerhead swagger that the officers have, coupled with that good-old-boy mutual ass patting.

But unlike Elvis, more like Nixon, there's a real dark side to the war. The team effort often ends up looking more like mob action. There is a frightfully long list of innocents injured and even killed by LEOs with a drug warrior mentality. No doubt there are some good officers, but their cause and their methods are suspect.

Greg Nullet @ 7/19/2011 11:33 AM

"Starkly differing views are troubling" "Perception: the difference between heroes and villians" What a stupid article. The difference isn't the perception. The difference is the behavior of the cops. Bin Laden admitted his crime 10 years ago. Jose Guerena was an honorably discharged Marine sleeping off another shift of heavily taxed labor. The taxes were used to hire his killers. It's two months along and I haven't seen anything connecting Mr. Guerena to any crime. This "war seeming without end" (God, what self-dramatization) is only being fought by one side.

The tone of this article is so telling. It tells me the authors are educated but not able reason very well. From the clunky sub-title to the misleading comparison with the Seal Team. These writers would be unable to write nor imagine a document as spiritually and intellectually far reaching as our Constitution. They would probably look at the list of complaints in the Declaration of Independence and ask, " What's wrong with that?" I suggest that history is not on the side of the over-gunned civil assault troops. In 1930 they would have been called G-men. In 1778 they would be called Tories. Pick your own epithet: STASI, Gestapo, NKVD, In no case, were they playing on the winning side.

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