Time and time again, when traveling across the country and training SWAT team members, the first question I ask the class is, "How many of you go on SWAT call outs for warrant service execution and shoot someone?"
Very rarely would you see multiple hands flying up in the air. When the same operators are asked, "How many of you make entry into structures doing the same job and, when confronted by subjects, go hands on?"
Many hands go up in the air. This raises the question about how well prepared you are to make entry into a structure, order subjects to the ground, and transition to hands to place handcuffs or control subjects on the ground.
Consider this real-world example.
A SWAT team made entry into a target location looking for a biker gang member on a no-knock warrant. After entering the residence, two operators locate the target in a room. The target planted his feet in a deep corner wedged between two walls with both hands showing and yells, "Come on mother f**kers, let's do this."
One operator deployed pepper spray, which didn't affect him in any way. The subject threw a small chair and yelled, "You're going to need more than that to stop me!" As the team members advance slowly forward and on angles, they're trying to decide the next move. They're carrying M-4 carbines and stated in the debrief that they never trained in quick transition to hands to deal with hostile threats who aren't armed and just want to fight.
As they stood there frozen in the room working their cycle of behavior to decide what to do, a third and larger SWAT member known as a "hands-on guy" suddenly burst into the room and tackled the subject, plowing him through the wall and placing him under arrest.
In our world of tactical teams, not everyone will comply with a rifle in their face, especially when they know they have no weapons in their hands. We know bean-bag rounds could be deployed, after the team backs away a few feet. Operators would stand their ground or attack the threat. However, when the sudden threat becomes a reality right before your eyes, you have to be able to think on your feet.
One example could come when you turn the corner into a room and suddenly a person comes out of nowhere and attacks you with what appears to be open hands. You've entered with a long weapon in your hand. You should switch into a fast reactive response, such as quickly dropping the long gun with one hand and creating fast space with the free hand. At this point, other team members should be entering the room or structure and should be hearing your verbal commands. This will alert operators to come from another position and assist in taking the subject to the ground.
Some operators create space with quick barrel strikes to the chest area to push the subject back, before going to hands. The bottom line is, you still have to go to hands, and you can't handcuff someone with closed fists. The world of MMA has brought us some advantages of training on the ground. However, many operators have never experienced or trained while wearing all their gear. Part of our Fgrav (Force of Gravity) Advanced DT/Use of Force Instructor programs allow for operators to learned to train with their gear.
We all know firearms training in the SWAT arena is a major and vital piece of our operations. However, we must start to broaden our horizons and start educating ourselves on how to defend, react, diffuse and quickly secure unarmed potential threats. We are held to a higher standard so shouldn't our training be?
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.