In every call for service, you should think things through before you begin your response. Each call can be broken down into three phases: pre-response, response, and post-response. The following scenario is designed to help you think things through rather than give you a specific way to handle the call.
One of your warrant guys asks for your help in arresting a known felon with an active warrant out of your agency for burglary. The suspect has never been violent toward police but is a known runner. Word on the street is he is back in town visiting his girlfriend. She lives in an apartment complex that backs up to a large retention pond and a track of environmentally protected woods. You advise your supervisor and she tells you to handle it as she is out on another call.
Since the suspect is a known runner you have to consider how to limit his mobility. You want to channel his movement into an area that you can control. Although he has never been violent before, there is always that first time. You need to keep that thought in the back of your mind as you begin your planning. Depending on what the girlfriend does, she might have to take a ride as well.
Think It Through Questions:
- Have you confirmed the warrant?
- Have you confirmed the girlfriend's location?
- Have you run the girlfriend's info to see what kind of threat she poses?
- Do you know what vehicles the subjects are driving?
- Do you have any eyes on the target right now?
Since the warrant is from your agency, you can easily verify if it's active. After obtaining the girlfriend's information, you run her name through the system and confirm she has no criminal record. However, although she is not a known threat you must take her into consideration. Never forget that love makes smart people do stupid things.
You send one of your officers to a small strip mall near the apartment complex to secure an area in the back for staging and briefing. You know you will need a K-9 team so you get that going. You formulate a tentative plan that includes funneling the subject through the back of the complex toward the retention pond and woods. That means at least three marked units in addition to the K-9. To channel the suspect's movements he has to see three sides of his escape have been cut off, leaving him only one way out: through the back.
Think It Through Questions:
- What if you don't get the number of units you need?
- How are you going to handle the girlfriend if she gets in the way?
- What if the subject turns violent?
- What if he doesn't go through the escape lane you create?
- What if he hits the water and stays there?
You are lucky it's been a slow day so getting the ideal number of units you need is easy. You meet at the staging area and you discuss the plan. Your warrants officer assures you that outside of being a runner the guy poses no threat. He tells you he has arrested him in the past without incident. You remind the warrants officer that anything can happen and that you still have to consider those possibilities.
You lay out your plan and give everyone their assignments. You were never able to identify the suspect's vehicle so it's out of play. Since marked units routinely drive through the apartment complex, you take the chance on looking for the girlfriend's vehicle. It's a 50/50 chance that if the girlfriend's car is there, the suspect is there. When the officer comes back he confirms it's there. You then move everyone into position. Since the girlfriend's apartment is on the bottom floor you don't have any stairs to deal with.
You have your K-9 officer pre-position himself and his K-9 on the other side of the pond just out of sight in the wood line. You take the front of the building and put an officer on either side. After you notify dispatch and obtain a clear channel, you tell everyone to hit their sirens for three seconds, leave their lights on, and get into position for maximum visibility for when he rabbits. You go to the door with the warrants officer and knock and announce.
No one comes to the door and someone calls out that the suspect just bolted out the back. The suspect sees his flanks cut off by cars with their lights on and officers standing nearby. Seeing the opposite bank clear of any officers, he has no other alternative but to dive into the retention pond in hopes of getting to the other side. Once the suspect gets about halfway, the K-9 team comes out from the woodline and gets the dog barking. The K-9 handler starts issuing commands for the suspect to head to the bank and get on the ground. The suspect stops swimming long enough to look around. Since everyone has shifted position, he sees a cop standing near his escape routes. He shakes his head, says a few words under his breath, and swims toward the K-9 handler. He gives up and is arrested without incident.
Think It Through Questions:
- Have you checked on the girlfriend and tried to interview her?
- What will you need to discuss when you debrief?
- Have you updated the supervisor?
- Do you need to advise your detectives in case they want to interview him?
- Is this something for which policy says you should contact your PIO?
The only thing left to do regarding your investigation is to go back and speak with the girlfriend. You need to establish what she knew and what she did with that information. You have to decide if there are any charges that you may want to pursue if she was actively hiding the suspect or interfering with your arrest.
Now you need to debrief so you can go over the good, the bad, and the ugly. Although this operation went well, it's important to always ask what could have been done better. Getting everyone's input is essential to building teamwork. You should never miss an opportunity to go over tactics or any applicable policies after an operation, especially if any less experienced officers were involved. Every time you work with such an officer this way you are helping mold the future of the agency. Remember to include any detective, watch commander, and PIO considerations in your wrap-up as well.
Warrant service either goes well or it doesn't. There never seems to be an in-between. It's been my experience that by adding a little planning it tends to go better. If there is no exigent circumstance, you should take the time to plan your actions.
Although surprise is always a good tactic, you never really know how it will go until you execute your plan. Dwight Eisenhower, supreme allied commander during WWII, said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." A little structure while maintaining an open mind toward what may happen goes a long way.
As always, there are multiple possibilities and potential responses. Thinking it through now saves you time later.
Amaury Murgado is a special operations lieutenant with the Osceola County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office. He is a retired master sergeant from the Army Reserve, has over 28 years of law enforcement experience, and has been a lifelong student of martial arts.