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Boston PD SWAT seen during the search for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

Boston PD SWAT seen during the search for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

Over the past few years of bouncing around the US, I have had the pleasure of meeting some outstanding law enforcement professionals who run 1st rate SWAT teams. I have also bumped into my fair share of teams who’s seemingly primary focus is on looking cool vs. knowing how to execute one of the most time critical & daunting tasks such teams may face… the hostage rescue scenario.

Here are a few of the common trends I have found among teams I have personally observed:

1. Officers are so afraid of getting shot they wrap themselves from head to toe in armor. Armored knee pads, bicep armor, forearm armor, neck armor, throat armor, face shields, nut armor, front plates, side plates, back plates, butt plates…. This list just goes on and on! What happens when you strap on heavy and cumbersome armor? Your mobility goes to shit; you get slow, and you make a lot of noises. Look at what the top SOCOM units are running for ballistic protection. They are constantly going after evil people who are heavily armed, trained and willing to die to go see Allah and get fucked in the ass by a goat. Do you see our best SOCOM assaulters covered from head to toe in armor? I think not! 

2.  Officers seldom differentiate cover from concealment when under stress. Way too often I see teams slowly clearing houses, taking its inch by inch all while trying to be as “stealthy” as possible. We all know that unless you’re naked and walking on concrete, you will make noise, however the consequences for making said noises in most LE training areas isn’t realistic. I find it unfortunate that some teams rarely train in places that allow for aggressors in force on force scenarios to shoot through walls.  Due to the lack of training areas where realistic scenarios can be played out I can see why some officers think that because they can’t be seen they can’t be killed. Conduct this type of training in old tar-paper shoot houses and officers quickly realize two things; 1. That if a guy can hear them on the other side of the wall they CAN get shot and 2. Most walls are concealment and not cover. There have been many instances over the years where a deranged criminal has killed officers who have treated concealment as cover.

3. Officers carry more gear on them than individual Marines had during the invasion of Fallujah! Again look at what our top units in DOD are doing when prosecuting complex targets that a full of heavily armed men. They are light, nimble, mobile and fast. Go to most SWAT schools and you see officers with double (and triple) stack mags, 1 or 2 (yup TWO) back up pistols! They have every pouch found on High Speed Gear’s website and each pouch is full of something “just in case”. I MIGHT understand this if they were Marines getting ready to roll into a week-long battle, where resupply is unknown, however the logistical resupply train for most SWAT callouts can be found 10-100 meters away from the front door of the suspects house.

3. Officers train at slow speeds and move even slower while clearing houses.  In order to make rapid decisions on the move one must train their mind to rapidly process the situation in front of them.  Another issue is that by moving slow they completely loose the element of surprise. Watch some YouTube footage of the most famous hostage rescue raids SOCOM has pulled off in recent years. You will notice how quickly these units takedown their targets. Do you see them slowly walking to the front door in nice lines going “hut hut hut” with shields in hand? Hell NO… They are in a dead sprint, climbing walls, jumping obstacles all to reach their multiple access points as quickly as possible. They know that the element of surprise isn’t infinite & they want to ensure they get as deep into the target while the odds are stacked in their favor.

Some agencies I come across see the light, others just get an attitude. One thing that MOST (not all)  have in common is that for the most part they mistake good fortune for good tactics. There will be a time when one of these teams run up against heavily armed and trained individuals. Only after zipping up the body bags of almost every swinging dick on the team will the administrators shift gears and start doing what our nation’s finest do to stay alive on battlefields across the globe. More focus needs to be spent on the proper implementation of rapid assault tactics (used effectively when necessary), and a lot more time needs to be spent on ditching unnecessary gear.  

Video link to what a good number of SWAT teams look like is HERE

Semper Fi
Steve Reichert