Moving Forward: NTOA SWAT Standards and Oakland PD

The SWAT community, while still affected by the recent tragic loss of fellow officers in the line of duty, are coming together to improve tactics and do what they do best: stop the bad guys.

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The SWAT community, while still affected by the recent tragic loss of fellow officers in the line of duty, are coming together to improve tactics and do what they do best: stop the bad guys.

NTOA SWAT Standards

In September 2008, the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) published its "SWAT Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies." This marked the first attempt at establishing nationwide guidelines for SWAT. As such, the recommendations were certain to generate interest and discussion throughout the SWAT community—including some concern among smaller teams about meeting certain standards.

Responsive to members' needs, NTOA addressed these concerns by adding Section 9.0: "Alternative Means of Complying with Standards." In this section, NTOA offers both recommendations and assistance in helping teams meet the standards. This is consistent with NTOA's goal to enhance SWAT professionalism and capabilities to protect and serve the public.

This amendment information was relayed to the Ohio Tactical Officers Association on May 22 by NTOA Regional Director Bob Chabali of Dayton (Ohio) PD.

In the March 2009 issue of POLICE Magazine, I wrote an article, "Standardizing SWAT," which provides background and explanation for NTOA's SWAT Standards. Long overdue, they represent the evolution of 40+ years of SWAT's experience. More significantly, they're written by SWAT practitioners, with the intent of increasing LE and SWAT professionalism and capabilities.

Certain to be subject to widespread review, NTOA's SWAT Standards are currently under review by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for possible adoption.
I urge all those in SWAT to review and study the NTOA SWAT Standards, to learn what the future might very possibly hold for you and your SWAT team.

Oakland SWAT

By now you've probably read that Oakland, Calif., SWAT team is back in business again, after its devastating "hit" of March 21, 2009. Since then, OPD SWAT had been in "stand down" mode recovering, regrouping and training new team leaders during the past two months.
On 6/1/09 during a press conference, OPD Acting Chief Howard Jordan announced that with a 5/29/09 drug raid, OPD Tactical was back in business, under the command of Capt. Ed Tracey.

Chief Jordan announced a Board of Inquiry, consisting of LE experts from California and across the nation will conduct a complete review of the March 21, 2009 tragedy. Jordan explained, "The intent is to provide others, both in OPD and agencies across the country, with key lessons that may save the lives of future officers."

Capt. Tracey cleared the air and defended his decision to be at the hospital with his two downed motor officers. He told assembled media they'd "been given inaccurate information" about his actions of March 21, including the fact that OPD has multiple SWAT commanders.

Tracey explained that at the time he went to the hospital (to be with his two critically wounded motor officers), the situation was not deemed to be a "SWAT situation." Information about suspect ID was still being developed. Once it was a SWAT situation, he knew a captain and deputy chief (both with SWAT experience) were at the scene.
Despite previous media reports of a "no confidence" vote by OPD SWAT for Tracey, the captain indicated they'd talked things through, and had resolved the situation, and were all moving forward.

I certainly hope so, for everyone's sake in OPD, especially for the Oakland SWAT team and Capt. Tracey. For a police department to lose four officers in a single day is a horrific tragedy. For all four officers to belong under one captain's command is an unfathomable burden. And the fact that two two of those officers who were killed were respected, experienced team leaders is a devastating blow.

That the Oakland Police Department, including OPD's SWAT team, is bouncing back from the worst day in its history is a credit to the enduring spirit and resolve of every man and woman in the Oakland Police Department who continue to perform their duties to protect and serve the public.

In the words of Chief Jordan, let's hope all of law enforcement will learn key lessons that save the lives of future officers.

About the Author
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SWAT Sergeant (Ret.)
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