SWAT—Not Sit, Wait, and Talk
Jeffrey J. Denning / SWAT Digest
“Hurry up and wait” is one sure thing that can be counted on in almost every tactical operation. Knowing when to wait and how to best utilize that time will help secure success and, most importantly, keep team members and the innocent safe. Aside from that, there are a few things every operator would like his administration to know… (Don’t worry; I’ll keep it clean.)
Fighting the Urge to Rush
Admit it: breaking down doors, “runnin’ and gunnin’ ”, “flowing and going” is fun. Busting into a room after throwing in a few flash bangs (a.k.a. noise flash distraction devices, NFDDs) and hollering “POLICE, Don’t Move!” while pointing a subgun or tricked out long gun at some unsuspecting felon is a rush. Nothing compares to it. Some might even say it’s better than sex.
Most tac guys (and gals) are adrenaline-junkies. At a younger age I too exhibited some of those characteristics. I went free-fall skydiving in high school, messed up my knee on a much-too-high cliff jump at Lake Powell, free climbed (without ropes) up 90 foot rock faces, and jumped like a “stunt man” head first off a three-story building onto crudely made padding. I even trained for a short season with members of the U.S. ski jumping and aerial freestyle ski teams. It’s amazing I didn’t get hurt more than I did.
One of the things I really enjoyed was backcountry skiing. We’d find huge cliffs to ski off. We tried to avoid hitting the trees in the air and land in the soft powder. Years later I remember reading about a man who tried to break the world’s record for the longest cliff jump on skis. He miscalculated his jump and hit another cliff plummeting several hundred meters to his death. Had he taken more time to calculate his jump, he might have set the record—and lived.
I realize that doesn’t have anything to do with police work or tactical operations, but I learned a valuable lesson from reading about that experience. It taught me an important lesson: it’s better to be a calculated risk-taker than just a risk-taker.
Now I run away from trouble. I avoid risk. My body doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to. I don’t want to get hurt.
One of the things I like about SWAT is that there is nearly always a way to improve the plan and increase the changes for officer safety. SWAT officers have the element of surprise. Time is on SWAT’s side. Rarely are tactical teams forced to walk into a trap. The danger comes from rushing in.
Larry Glick, the former executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association and the founder of the International Tactical Officers Training Association (ITOTA), taught me the value of patience in order to lower risk and ensure success. He suggested that we should consider every available tactical option before breaking down a door. If it’s a barricaded situation, for instance, there’s no rush to go in. Wait. Use gas, a ruse, or something else to flush the suspect out. Use a robot or your SWAT monkey—“tactical primate”—in the case of Mesa, Arizona PD. Rip down a wall and wait. Open up the door and stay outside. “Break and rake” the windows and wait! Resist your urge to rush in and lower your risk. Once inside a building the level of risk raises exponentially. Hold off and be safe.