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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.

Every Officer Should Be Trained In SWAT Basics

Learning basic SWAT tactics makes patrol officers better responders to active shooters.

January 31, 2013  |  by Jose Medina

Photo courtesy of Jose Medina.
Photo courtesy of Jose Medina.

At the Columbine High massacre, officers arrived and, perhaps realizing the firepower being used was too much, called out the SWAT team. It took more than 40 minutes for actual teams to arrive on the scene. In the meantime, some victims bled out due to the lag in response. Suddenly, the tactics "had to change."

In today's world, entire departments train in active shooter response operations. It has become simple common sense for departments to get their people trained in "advanced tactics" training for these types of response.

The North Hollywood bank robbery and shootout in 1997 stemmed the call for agencies to bring in long weapons such as AR-15/M-4 style rifles to combat such serious situations. Yet in many departments around the country, much of the training was spent familiarizing the officers with how to use the rifles efficiently. We had lots of good range time, trigger work, and good solid fundamentals. So why aren't these same officers trained in a basic SWAT component?

SWAT is a life-saving resource. Therefore, the tactics used are more explosive in nature; appear to be more fearless in approach; and build confidence in every field officer. Let's face it. The majority of SWAT teams in the nation are part-time teams. Very few full-time teams exist.

On these teams, many of the SWAT officers are strategically placed on different patrol and support division shifts as part of their work assignments. On any given day, in a mid-level town, you can have 12 to 20 officers responding to a scene within minutes. Many of these street officers link up with the SWAT officer on duty to gain the next rapid response move. The SWAT officer often takes control, stacks his team, and makes entry.

Here's where the problem lies.

We watch many operators in basic SWAT school. Some of the things we watch include movement with weapons, pivots, transitions to handgun and back to long weapon, backing out, and simulated entry work. These are the same skills street officers need to know.

Before Columbine, if non-SWAT-trained officers arrived on scene, entered the building, and made their way deep into the school looking for the bad guy(s), would they suddenly leave the building if a SWAT team linked up with them or would the SWAT team want the extra personnel? 

My point? Basic SWAT gives just that—the basic tactics that too many veterans working today may look at as advanced. Shouldn't every good basic cop have the ability to quickly stack, flow into a room, hold a position if a SWAT team leader stated, "you two post this hallway," and back-clear or secondary search several rooms?

Lets face it. Tactical superiority, if not performed on a regular basis, is a diminishing skill. The same thing goes for basic firearms training.

I tell many students, "You clear rooms every day when you walk into shops and coffee houses or performing security checks of buildings. Do you take that eyeball view of the surroundings as the "norm"? If you're like me, you take a quick moment to "scenario the environment" and plan a response.

SWAT teams are a very advanced and elite group of individuals, especially when built around tough standards. Front-line response officers should not worry about the advanced tactics such as sniper work, camera poles, gas mask CQB situations, strategic hostage situations, and other extreme situations.

SWAT rules of entry hasn't become trade secrets, and it helps to have the extra operators I call "boots on the ground street warriors" rolling next to us when needed. Like us, they have limited fear, superior confidence and tactical unity with the common goal of saving and protecting life. That comes from knowing tactical basics.

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team. He is a professional trainer for Team APC training.

Comments (10)

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10

Robert Gourley @ 2/7/2013 11:19 PM

Great article! I couldn't agree more. As a former swat officer I know the benefits of having the training to enter a situation or a scene with a tactical frame of mind. If more officers were trained in these tactics and fundamentals it could only help yourself and your fellow officers in the future.

Sal @ 2/8/2013 5:01 AM

I gree as well. I have been training officers for years that off duty is a myth if your a cop. i scan every room I enter regardless of where I am. It is not paranoia, it is being a good cop. Take the job seriously because it is a lifestyle and we are the ones who keep everyone safe and are expected to go into bad situation. Stay safe.

Trigger @ 2/8/2013 7:13 AM

As a former police sniper the special ops units seemed to keep secret the "tools of the trade" from the street cops. It was like if we shared then we would be out of a job. Looking back this was some macho stupidity. We are all in this together, let's work together, share tactics, etc. to save lives of not only the citizens but our fellow officers.

John Russsell @ 2/8/2013 12:29 PM

How could ONE COP leave LA and turn all of Southern California into a WAR ZONE? And we are not talking FANTASY here ? Think about this carefully --One fire took all of TEXAS CITY out in 1947 It's not this man but what he knows ;and what he could do? where he could go and who he could be with? Oh an most officers can go to specialized TACTICAL TRAINING courses and learn from SEALS and RECON trainers!

Rob @ 2/8/2013 4:26 PM

I also have to agree. I've never been a swat operator, but the academy I attended spent quite a bit of time on SW execution. Yes, a lot of the skills are basic individual tactics, but swat training puts the "team" in them. Some basic infantry squad tactics wouldn't hurt either.

Brandon @ 2/13/2013 11:12 AM

I agree. My academy was a operated by a big city PD so we benefited from simunitions in the building clearing training. We also learned from current SWAT guys that while the techniques were considered advanced, forced us to stick to basics or the principles of CQB. This should be added with the rapid response training that should be provided in the academy. The diamond formation should be done away with as it makes a big, wide and quick target decision for shooters. A stack is safer and easier to teach so I dont know how the diamond came around. Basic SWAT should be provided to all officers and advanced swat should be the minimum for all SWAT officers who pass a selection to get on a team. They should also be well trained in tracking in open and wooded terrain. Too few teams focus on CQB only.

VetDog @ 2/27/2013 3:58 PM

SWAT Operations, Military CQB and all entry skills should be drilled into every Officer everywhere! First Responders are reacting to events IN PROGRESS and we all need the foundational tactics and skils to eliminate and isolate, then terminate! This should be department wide to save lives. Period. Anyone who thinks otherwise has not realized the times we are living in and the threat that exists every day.

pup @ 2/27/2013 4:05 PM

I agree with RG, it was a great article. As a former Swat Deputy and K9 Handler for 17 years, I wondered why Patrol Deputies never received the training as I did during my tenture in Swat and K9. Since I've been invloved in Patrol my entire career, I've seen quite a few tactical mistakes among patrol, which could have or did result in
injuries/death. Due to the lack of training provided by departments, I felt it's important to pass along knowledge and experiences to fellow LEo's. Therefore, I'm working on a training/tactical school for patrol personnel. This training will prepare the officer ranging from the everyday duties to an active shooter situation. If interested, I would like to find other personnel who may be interested being an instructor. In my 35 years of LE, I am tired of our brother/sisters being killed in the line of duty. Since departments don't have the training staff or resourses due to cut backs, I hope this idea will expand and help LEO's with knowledge to survive their shift.

34yrvet @ 2/28/2013 7:55 AM

Thirty four year vet, swat for the last 14, every officer on my Police Department has been trained for active shooter, including Sheriff's Office personnel. All officers and deputies are integrated into the stack and trained in swat tactics, using force on force instruments. It is worth the training time!!! I agree, every officer should have the training, even the chiefs and sheriffs.

Outriding @ 3/3/2013 10:25 AM

Right on. After 25 years narcotics and 12 SWAT, I went back to patrol as supervisor in small SO. Patrol unit is made up of 15 deputies. Since I work primarily nights, I have started bring training to the night unit on slow nights. Some of it has been things like building clearing, etc. and many table-top scenarios. After completing one series, team was faced with an almost exact same situation on a call. Due to prior training, they handled it flawlessly. Our goal is "Everyone goes home at the end of shift." Stay strong!

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