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Establishing SWAT Teams and Importance of “Real Time” Training

Jose Medina, Awareness Protective Consultants, LLC

Through the history of law enforcement and establishment of Special Weapons and Tactics Units, there have been so many changes in the world of SWAT and how we perform each operation but when all is said and done, one of the most important aspects of the SWAT unit is serious training.

Throughout my law enforcement career I have spent many years studying and training in tactics from law enforcement tactics, correction officer tactics and SWAT tactics. What I have seen in the past years is the establishment of teams who have not received a strong blessing from their agency’s administrators. Many times an incident occurs somewhere in our country and suddenly I will receive a call from an agency advising me they are interested in putting a team together at the request of their administration, but they are tasked in accomplishing this with very little resources. My common response is, “How much training time are they going to allow you to get the team ready on a monthly basis?” The response is usually once a month or every other month and we have to figure out how to obtain some gear because we don’t have much money and do you know of any grant sources? The above is a small example of some of the issues that plague our SWAT society as we continue to push forward in hopes of sending a strong message to our respective agencies: “The team is a vital component to our agency structure.”

If you are establishing a team or have an existing one in place here are some areas you may want to consider to help protect you the trainer, your team and your agency:

1. Establish strong training attendance standards – Mandatory training days should be listed and if needed, made up in someone’s absence especially if you are a part-time team, which is the case in many agencies.

2. Establish strong “real time” training programs – With the limited time you may have for training, establish enhanced training programs for your team. If you are doing firearms training, give the team strong and intense trigger time. I have always said teams train in many different ways and make many different entries. But one standard should be the same when it comes to SWAT: MASTER THE WEAPONS. They should be part of your anatomy when presenting the weapon in training or in the real world environment. Other areas to consider are:

• Practical exercises simulating actual real world events that have occurred in your areas or other SWAT incidents. Researching this type of information helps to provide a better understanding of a situation while applying stress inoculation to your team members.

• This same type of “incident simulation training” is critical also as it helps to provide training based around a real event and case law situations.

• Training in this area also helps you to gauge your team members and see who is good under pressure and who is in need of extra work.

• Having strong written lesson plans that can simulate “real time” events can help in your training programs, training files and in the event of a critical incident situation, you can provide the courts with actual incidents and how you trained your team in a similar fashion.

3. Establish a good force on force training program – In my years of training many teams I have always heard the crazy talks about force on force as simply professional “paint balling” or projectiles flying. Keep in mind force on force in our arena covers not just projectiles but also tactical baton training, tactical OC training, or simply hand to hand training compiled with verbal commands. Remember, your training must work around the “Use of Force” continuum within your respective state and agency guidelines.

4. Document Your Training – At the end of the day, and depending on your agency guidelines, all your training should be documented and placed in a central SWAT training file. Make sure your team SOPs are consistent but have some flexibility in the system. Research and study video footage of team incidents such as “friendly fire” or simply your own training programs. This helps you to study team movement, weapon discipline and actions under stress.

I have listed some examples of areas in which I help teams to establish training and equipment formats. It is very important to understand that this is just a snapshot of a bigger picture in which you must prepare in your team training concepts. The overall picture here is to keep the team running strong, keep consistent in training and lessen the liability in your agency.

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