SWAT—Not Sit, Wait, and Talk
Jeffrey J. Denning / SWAT Digest
Because of this we must encourage creativity, explore unconventional tactics. What was once unconventional in SWAT operations is now well known and publicized. Our nemeses often know what we’ll do even before we do it.
Barriers to creativity include unapproachable leadership. This is a “team” operation. Individuals may be smart, but one person cannot possibly have all the answers. Leaders and individual team members must—not should—encouraging brainstorming and free thinking by allowing open discussion (at the appropriate time). Avoid put-downs, saying things like “that’s a dumb idea.” Instead explore each option and give a reason why or why not. Quality leaders should be able to articulate and convince a whole team why the final tactical plan is the very best and safest option.
The other related hindrance that keeps our blinders on generating dangerous myopic thinking is “group think”. Do we all think alike? Most of the time that’s good; sometimes it can thwart progression. Challenge the conventional, the routine. SWAT needs guys/gals who will challenge the norm and ask why or why not. Finally, take suggestions and ideas from new guys seriously. They often have fresh perspectives. Focus. Concentrate. Never underestimate the suspect(s), the terrain or the situation. Dominate tactically. And remember: there’s a serious difference between using strong, powerful, overwhelming tactics and using excessive force. Don’t confuse this. Win.
If your SWAT team isn’t training at least two full days each month plus a minimum of two or three weeks each year, you’re doing your community a grave disservice. If your team runs five miles together in full tactical gear on training days instead of making use of the limited but valuable training time you’re allotted, you’re wasting precious time. Don’t major in the minors! Seriously, how often is your team going to rappel in an operation? Focus training on what’s most important: tactics, shooting and scenario-based training. You can’t get in shape by working out two days each month.
Chances are you don’t have enough team members to safely, adequately handle SWAT operations, let alone those who may be on vacation, injured, or face it…intoxicated. Consider doubling the current number. Even then you might not have enough. On my first hostage call-out our team leader had just gotten out of the hospital from receiving a vasectomy. If we could only schedule when criminals would start their rampage then we might keep small numbers of SWAT officers available.
Seriously though, hopefully nothing terribly wrong will every happen, but changes are something will go extremely awry one day. At that point budget and personnel shortage problems that may now be attributed to the current lack of support and resources will seem futile. Multiple death notifications, workers compensation pay-outs, negative press coverage, not to mention the abundance of other distresses, is not a good note to end your career on.