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Training to enhance "Tactical Situational Awareness"
Whether you’re responding to patrol runs or you’re out on SWAT operations, understanding how to manage situational awareness can greatly maximize your chances for success. Situational awareness is one component of what I refer to as the “Strategic Thinking Triad.” It can be applied to all tactical training including SWAT operations and patrol response. The “Strategic Thinking Triad” consists of:
While I addressed “cognitive thinking skills” in a previous article and will discuss “situated cognition” in a future article, here I will focus on the third item — “situational awareness” as it applies to police operations and training.
Defining Situational Awareness
So how does this apply to the uniformed officer or SWAT cop? In the context of SWAT operations, situational awareness refers to the unit’s ability to determine the relationships of the factors that are present — such as perception, comprehension, and projection — and form logical conclusions concerning any threats to the individual officer or team, as well as to the mission objectives.
Simply, situational awareness is a process our minds go through for just about everything we do. For example, when you’re involved in a high-speed chase you are cognitively processing numerous pieces of active intelligence simultaneously. As the chase continues, you act on the decisions you make from that information. During a high-speed pursuit, you may process information such as:
In this scenario, your ability to process various and numerous pieces of active intelligence is your situational awareness. Some officers have a natural ability to manage their situational awareness. From participating in (and listening to) these pursuits unfold, you know that it’s usually obvious just by their radio brevity that a particular officer is just as smooth as if you were speaking to them in the coffee shop. However, other officers lose their cool and find it necessary to yell or scream into the radio, pass the lead chase car, or even try and take over the pursuit entirely. These officers have lost control of their situational awareness and tend to make a stressful situation even worse.
When an officer loses the ability to manage their situational awareness they can create more problems than they’re already dealing with, simply because making incorrect tactical decisions can endanger other officers. At a minimum, they can create (or contribute to) other factors which would then have to be mitigated as well.
The good news is that through training, officers who lack the innate ability to manage their situational awareness can be trained to a higher level. That doesn’t mean that all officers can be trained to an acceptable level but that is an entire different problem in itself. As tactical commanders, team leaders, patrol sergeants, uniformed command officers, and trainers we can attempt to bring these guys up to speed.
When you encounter an officer who doesn’t respond to the training, they should be identified as a “potential hazard,” and if they’re involved in a critical incident later, the commander will hopefully take the necessary precautions to minimize that officer’s ability to lose situational awareness, potentially jeopardizing the safety of the other officers involved in the incident.
Command officers, you must keep in mind that it’s your responsibility to recognize when an officer is a danger to himself and other officers. You must not hesitate to mitigate the problem.
To improve officers’ situational awareness through training you will need to take your training objective such as “decision-based live fire” or “SWAT operations” or “patrol response” and identify “objective measures” and “subjective measures” to monitor.
Training objective measures can be gathered in one of three ways:
Self-ratings may be useful because they can provide an assessment of the operator’s degree of confidence in their situational awareness and their own performance. Measuring how situational awareness is perceived by the operator may provide information as important as the operator’s actual “situational awareness”. Over confidence or lack of confidence in situational awareness may have just as harmful of an effect on an individual’s or team’s decision-making as errors in their actual “situational awareness”.
Subjective critiques of an individual’s situational awareness may also be made by experienced observers such as peers, commanders, or outside experts. These observer critiques may be superior to self-ratings because they have more information about the true state of the training scenario, objective, and environment than the operator who is performing the training.
When an officer encounters a situation that offers multiple cues to its meaning and consequences, those that are relevant to our accessible concepts tend to be noticed more easily, and the situation tends to be interpreted in terms of that concept rather than another one. Basically, we see things as we want to see them. The officers “situational awareness,” depends on knowledge, motives, emotional state, experiences, expectations, fatigue, and other variables.
SWAT operators with a keen sense of situational awareness have the ability to put their “game face” on prior to any operation. This holds true for uniformed officers responding to high-risk patrol runs. This process of putting your game face on is actually an individual’s ability to heighten their senses and alertness to the task at hand. Some operators may mentally rehearse their individual roles in the operation. Some may listen to music on the way to the scene and others can make the transition at a moments notice.
Once you’re in this heightened state of situational awareness, you’ll have the ability to pick up on bits of intelligence that you may have missed otherwise.
When conducting training you will witness this firsthand as you observe the operator work through the training objective. However, keep in mind that the reinforcement from the objective and subjective measures must remain positive to be effective. When in training we all make mistakes, and some officers’ mistakes create negative emotions that can interfere with learning and also lead to withdrawal. Some officers become anxious at the thought of doing any training at which they may be viewed as “failing.” Teaching situational awareness can increase the officer’s performance and confidence.
The key to success is to slow the officer’s response to a speed in which he can process the information, prioritize the information, and then act decisively. Once the officer develops this skill, even his perception of slowing the decision-making process actually becomes faster.
Imagine yourself involved in the high-speed pursuit as mentioned earlier and you have all those active bits of information to process as the pursuit continues. Officers must prioritize each bit, process it, and not hesitate to act upon those decisions. Sometimes not choosing a course of action can be worse than making the wrong decision.
Take any training objective and introduce stress and multiple problems at once for that objective. When you introduce those problems provide several potential options to solve them. Identify the objective and subjective measures and create the critiques and questions for the officer’s measures. Give the officer a short period of time and force them to make decisions based on the information that you provided. Afterwards, critique their performance and discuss all of their options. Remember, to keep it positive!
Continue this style of training and make it very repetitive — repetition in training develops memory. Memory fosters confidence, decisiveness, and speed for making decision in combat. Once this training becomes repetitive to your officers then you have helped them develop confidence in the face of adversity. From this comes increased situational awareness.
with Sgt. Glenn French
Tactical leadership is an art that requires personal attributes to inspire and motivate others toward a common mission. Leadership is the ability to inspire people to do what needs to be done, even if they don’t necessarily want to do it.
A great leader will solicit input from his officers. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a critical incident or a training event. When you do solicit input you will discover different concepts an ideas you were sure to miss. This also develops trust and a bond that only SWAT officers experience.
Tactical leaders should empower your SWAT operators with tasks and objectives allowing freedom for creativity, granting the authority to make decisions and to act upon them. Also, the leader should provide direction and support depending on the SWAT operator’s experience.
The next component of great leadership is to “grow” future leaders. This may be the greatest challenge to the tactical leader but as the commander you are responsible for the over-all operation of your unit. It will take a significant amount of time and effort, but the unit’s future successes will depend on your efforts. Provide opportunities to all your SWAT officers, so you avoid favoritism.
When growing future leaders consider challenging every individual, everybody will benefit, and the sharpest SWAT cops will rise to the top. Identify leadership potential early, and challenge appropriately. Encourage SWAT operators to make decisions, experience leadership, and take risks. Officers will learn from both successes and failures. Provide opportunities for professional growth and promotion.
To identify and develop future leaders, team commanders should know your officer’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Create an environment that encourages officers to take reasonable risks and treat setbacks or failures as opportunities for learning and improvement.
When the officer’s initiatives fail, commend the attempt and turn it into a learning experience. A lot of younger officers have a fear of failure, which often prohibits him or her from achieving their full potential.
Practice what you preach. SWAT cops are observant and can see through a leader in short order. Expecting your officers to perform in one manner and you doing something other than what you expect of them will foster animosity. Eventually, you will lose their respect and their confidence in your leadership. Once an officer loses respect for his leadership the success of SWAT operations may result in failure. Lead by example with character, confidence and loyalty.
George Washington required of his officers in the Continental Army; character, professional ability, integrity, prudence, and loyalty. He provided a concept or platform for his leaders to command by, rather than stringent rules that could get misinterpreted by individual leaders and ultimately causing failure. Use Washington’s concept to allow your team leaders to command with confidence without the fear of breaking policy in lieu of sound tactical decisions.
A tactical leader should have the vision to see beyond the current dilemmas they are faced with and the strength of character to stay the course as they command in the face of adverse conditions.
Remember these principles to command by and enjoy your unit’s success:
• Empower subordinates to be creative
• Set standards that give SWAT operators goals to reach
• Provide challenging and enlightening tasks
• Identify and develop people with leadership potential
• Recognize unit and individual successes
• Encourage and facilitate professional growth
• Begin developing and training future commanders
Tactical leaders should work hard in the eyes of their officers. Gen. Colin Powell put it this way, "If you want them to work hard and endure hardship, you must work even harder and endure even greater hardship, they must see you sacrifice for them".
Worry about what your SWAT operators think of you — not what the upper chain of command thinks of you. If you are a great leader, with sound tactical decision-making skills with concern for your officers then the dedication and commitment your officers give to you will be the positive impression that the upper brass needs to form an opinion of your leadership skills.
Your officers must see you do the hard things, they must see you giving credit to SWAT operators when credit is do, and they must see you take the blame for something that they did wrong. It’s important that they feel you really care for them, that you will sacrifice for them, that you trust them. This can’t be achieved through words. Your actions as a tactical leader will provide the foundation for your officer’s trust and total commitment.
with Sgt. Glenn French
A joyful Christmas season is here for most of you brothers and sisters in blue but for some, a dreadful holiday season looms on the horizon. In the wake of the Ft. Hood massacre and the murders of four Lakewood Washington officers, too many families will experience a Christmas like no other.
However, the children, the wives, the parents, and families of these American Warriors will gather with heavy hearts and reflect on the lives of the men and women they loved so dearly. Their kids will not feel the joy that my children will feel as they open their Christmas gifts. Their widows will cook Christmas dinner, although filled with pain and sorrow. For these heroic families, this holiday season will be painful to say the least.
The grief these people will suffer is a subtle reminder of why I chose to serve. Just like their husbands, dads, sons, or brothers, we are all willing to make that sacrifice for people we don’t even know.
Sadly, the day has come where violence and mass murder has become a regular occurrence in American culture.
I wonder what the future holds for my youngest children. I’ve worked so hard to provide a stable environment for them. My wife doesn’t work so she can raise our children at home — like most families with a single income, we struggle. Like most of you I spent Christmas day in uniform for many years, answering calls instead of watching my kids play with their new toys. After all, it’s our children’s well-being and futures that we’ve chosen to work so hard for.
The personal sacrifices we make as parents and police officers will be treasured by our kids in their adult lives as they recall memories of their childhood long after we’re gone.
It’s with this sense of commitment that we provide our children a better life.
John Wayne was once asked what he wanted most for his new daughter Marisa. He replied, “I want her to be grateful as I am everyday for living in these United States. The first thing she’s going to learn from me is the Lord’s Prayer. I really don’t care if she ever memorizes the Gettysburg address just so long as she understands it and since little girls are seldom called upon to defend their country she may never have to raise her hand for that oath, but I certainly want her to respect all those who do. I guess that’s all I want for my little girl.”
It appears that the things that Wayne wanted for his children fifty years ago are very similar to the things that I wish for my children and all the children of this country. It’s why I’m willing to sacrifice my tomorrows for theirs. No matter who is in peril in the streets I patrol, I am willing to sacrifice my tomorrows for people I don’t know.
Every time that I pin my badge on my uniform shirt and kiss my children goodbye I accept the terms that face me on the streets, for God is my protector.
As you warriors celebrate Christmas with the ones you love take a minute and reflect on the victims and families from Ft. Hood and the Lakewood Police department. Remember Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Okaloosa County, Florida; Seminole County, Oklahoma; and the dozens of other cities and towns that have lost heroes in 2009.
It is our responsibility to provide these fallen Warriors’ children a safe and bright future. They are our brothers’ children.
The next time you report for another tour of duty, take this with you:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God"
Sgt. Glenn French
Cognitive thinking and the tactical warrior
with Sgt. Glenn French
I would like to dedicate this article to Officer “Mark Sawyers” of the Sterling Heights Police Department. Badge “76,” your memory lives on.
As we all know, this week is National Police Week and as we reflect on our Warriors that gave the ultimate sacrifice I would like to share with you the importance of cognitive thinking as it applies to SWAT and to all police work.
Cognitive thinking may be the single most important trait of a SWAT warrior — when dealing with a deadly adversary in that dark moment of combat your success may hinge on your cognitive thinking abilities. The cognitive thinking process includes:
• Divided attention and your ability to manage it: Divided attention allows you to handle two or more tasks at one time.
• Working memory and your ability to utilize it under pressure: Working memory is the ability to retain information for short periods of time while processing or using it.
• Processing speed of the information presented to you: Processing speed is the rate at which the brain handles information.
• Long-term memory of past incidents and training: Long-term memory is the ability to both store and recall information for later use.
• Visual processing of the situation: Visual processing is the ability to perceive, analyze, and think in visual images. Visual discrimination is seeing differences in size, color, shape, distance, and the orientation of objects. Visualization is creating mental images.
• Auditory processing of the situation: Auditory processing is the ability to perceive, analyze, and conceptualize what is heard. Auditory discrimination is hearing differences in sounds, including volume, pitch and duration.
• Logic and reasoning of the information and situation: Logic and reasoning skills are the abilities to reason, prioritize, and plan.
SWAT warriors should focus on these cognitive thinking skills to quicken and more effectively respond to an adversary’s action(s). Creating training with realism is the primary factor that will help build better cognitive thinking skills so when SWAT cops are subjected to actual combat they will feel that they’ve already been there and been exposed to that environment.
There are several techniques you can use when training SWAT cops to achieve this, but introducing stress into all of your training is paramount. Stress can be as simple as physical activity such as running in full SWAT gear prior to engaging targets on the gun range, or performing SWAT tactics in full SWAT gear, with your protective gas mask donned, while being timed on the task. These are some simple ideas and obviously the list can go on and on — you’re only limited to your imagination in dreaming up different stress techniques. The key to introducing stress into your training is to make it applicable to what the training objective is and make sure you take your SWAT cops to that dark, uncomfortable place, over and over again.
Simunition scenarios are another great technique. Training on SWAT tactics using Simunition provides stress while conducting the training operation. The mere presence of the possibility you may be shot by simunition induces stress. Simunition induces stress on two levels. First is the fear of the sting when you’re shot but most importantly, SWAT cops do not want the stigma of being ‘the guy that got tagged’ by his adversary — it’s embarrassing. This is the time a lot of SWAT operators throw their tactics out the window and it’s a great time to capitalize on training points, as you will now have a captive audience. Processing speed, auditory perception, and divided attention are the focus of Simunition scenarios.
The best leaders in combat tend to be low motivators who can give instruction under perilous conditions. So try this technique to build leadership skills and induce stress for those who lack in leadership skills. Pick different team leaders for the day during training sessions, including less experienced officers. Then during the training day, throw challenging tasks at them that will incorporate some type of physical stress, with a deadline to complete the challenge and make the challenge some type of SWAT problem to work out like a hostage rescue, barricaded gunman, warrant service, or a physical challenge.
Incorporating a physical challenge into your training can be very simple. For example, take your two entry teams or split your team in half and have them compete against each other by pushing a police car up a hill for time and after they get to the finish line have them complete a SWAT tactic while being tired and winded. This is great for team building but when you add the SWAT tactic after they will be forced to use logic and reasoning under a great deal of stress from the competition and the physical aspect that was performed. On the gun range have the teams matched up in head-to-head competition, running and traversing obstacles while engaging targets. Range safety is paramount but head-to-head competition splits their attention, and they will train their auditory processing and visual processing skills while trying to move without endangering the other teams shooters. As the rookie team leaders command their team they will experience all of the above cognitive thinking processes and improve their cognitive thinking. The focus of this training is logic and reasoning as well as divided attention.
Observation training is another great technique that improves cognitive thinking skills. Give your SWAT cops a simulated scout mission during training such as a room in a building and have them proceed to that objective. Set up the room with items that are natural to that environment but also add things that can be critical pieces of intelligence to a SWAT commander. Give the scouts time to report to the team leader the intelligence they collect.
When they are finished you can evaluate the information — don’t be surprised by the difference in perceptions your officers will have. The focus to this training is the memory and the visual processing of the information.
The key component to training for cognitive thinking is repetition and intensity. You should strive to replicate the fear of the battle, the intensity, the uncertainty, the chaos, and the ambiguity of combat and repeat it over and over again until your SWAT warriors’ cognitive thinking process is as sharp as the knife in their pocket.
with Sgt. Glenn French
This month, children and young adults will return to their schools and universities from summer recess. It’s sad that we must prepare and train for active shooters and mass murderers in our schools, but unfortunately that’s the world we live in and this has become standard operating procedures for SWAT teams across this country. One mass murder was already attempted at a California high school.
In 1997, LAPD officers responded to an active shooter incident in North Hollywood. Three civilians and nine officers were shot. The incident lasted 39 minutes and in the end, seven civilians and eleven officers were shot and injured. The suspects shot 1100 rounds from fully automatic AK-47’s, fully automatic Bushmaster .223’s and a .308 H&K semi auto. Besides having a trouble neutralizing the threats, officers were unable to get EMTs to the injured officers and citizens.
In this situation, most EMTs won’t deploy to render aid in an unsecure environment. Even if this situation occurs during a SWAT operation then a single TEMS operator won’t be able to handle the situation alone. What if the injured officers are cut off from TEMS personnel for some time?
The answer to this problem is tactical combat care training. This training isn’t new to the military, and all SWAT officers and uniformed officers can benefit from this valuable training.
The basics of tactical combat care training
The single most contributing cause of officer deaths is gunshot trauma. That being said, research indicates that most gunshot trauma victims have five minutes to be stabilized from life-threatening injuries. After the first five minutes, your chances of survival significantly decrease. That’s when tactical combat care training can save your life.
EMTs have been trained for years on the concept of the “golden hour,” however research from military combat indicates that most shooting victims with life-threatening injuries die within the first five minutes. Research also indicates that if a shooting victim is alive when EMTs arrive, he or she will most likely survive.
Tactical combat care training is designed to provide skills so that officers may may render life-saving aid while remaining in the fight. This training will not turn officers into medics, but it may allow an officer to stabilize an injured cop until medics arrive.
Tactical combat care will also train the officer to assess the situation and the victim needing aid. For example, 99% of penetrating gun shot wounds to the head are fatal. So, if an officer is an active shooter situation and he locates a civilian victim with a penetrating gunshot wound to the head, he may assess the tactical situation and make a logical determination if he should risk exposure to gunfire and aid the victim or not. Remember, an officer’s primary duty is to stop criminal behavior; their second duty is to render aid.
Approaching a victim in a tactical formation is another vital component of this training. Although most SWAT teams train for this procedure, uniformed officers are typically at a disadvantage and will find this training very useful. There are many other important nuances in the initial phase of assessment and approach training those officers will be taught to recognize and deal with.
Basic first aid training is another component, and will refresh the officer’s basic first aid training in areas like airway and breathing treatment as well as hemorrhage and shock treatment. These topics will be taught in greater detail than what officers might typically receive, but it will include performing the skills in a combat environment.
Learning how to prevent life-threatening injuries
The most significant component of this training will include life-saving skills that are not basic first aid, but instead techniques used by medical personnel that may be necessary to save your victims' lives in a combat situation where emergency aid isn’t available.
For example, officers will learn how to keep an airway open, which is critical to survival. One tool that officers will be trained to use is the Nasopharyngeal Airway tube. This flexible tube can maintain an open airway in a victim until medical personnel arrive so you can stay in the fight.
Tension pneumothorax is another life-threatening injury officers should be trained to deal with. Tension pneumothorax is a condition that occurs when a bullet or shrapnel penetrates a lung. The air from the lung enters the chest cavity and fills the space between the ribs and the lung. When this happens the lung no longer has the space needed to inflate the lung. Therefore, the lung may collapse and the heart can be shifted, causing blood flow to stop to the heart. Performing a chest decompression with a BD Angiocath Autogard Catheter can stop tension pneumothorax from occurring and provide immediate relief.
Massive blood loss is another life-threatening injury that can be prevented. Officers should be trained in the use of a blood-clotting agent like the CELOX Hemostat and the use of a tourniquet such as the CAT tourniquet. Although tourniquets can cause the loss of a limb, losing a limb is better than losing your life. Training in tourniquet application during a combat environment is a critical component in the combat care training. Modern tourniquets make the process simple.
The warrior spirit
Finally, the last component is the warrior mindset and how it applies to the officer’s survival during combat. I like to teach that the way to warrior supremacy is through preparation and training; the way to failure and defeat is through arrogance and indifference. Preparing the warrior spirit begins with confidence, confidence is built through training.
“In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected” — Sun Tzu
When the time comes, get your mind right, engage the warrior spirit, and stay in the fight. Tactical combat casualty training is an obvious asset to the warrior spirit.
Here are some items that I carry and train SWAT officers to utilize in emergency operations. Although these items may be a name brand, other variations are available. Also, if you purchased these items individually it would cost you less than $80. Obviously, bulk orders and shopping for low prices can cut the cost to less than $50 per officer. Most fire departments, paramedics and hospitals carry these items and you might be able to get them at no cost. Place these items in your tactical vest or back pack and have them available to you when you need them.
1) Asherman Chest Seal
2) Nasopharyngeal Airway Tube
3) BD Angiocath Autogard Catheter
4) CAT Tourniquet
5) CELOX Hemostat
As you prepare your SWAT operators for active shooter and mass murder incidents, prepare them by providing them the opportunity for tactical combat care training. Once you train your SWAT operators, encourage them to train fellow uniformed warriors as well.
with Sgt. Glenn French
Editor’s Note: September 11, 2001 was the deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history — 72 police officers lost their lives that terrible day. The sadness and the anger remain raw. To mark this solemn anniversary we present a series of outstanding columns on law enforcement’s role in the continuing fight against terrorism. Below, Sgt. Glenn French says that while there’s no doubt that answering calls for service is the primary function for patrol, it’ll be patrol to be the first to respond to the terrorist or active shooter.
As the children in our country return to school for another year of studies, millions of people in America are also return to the memory of 9/11. These two things will always overlap on our calendar, in part by happenstance. But for law enforcement, which still struggles with the concept of how to respond to an active shooter incident, these coinciding annual events serve as a reminder. Schools have been targets of active shooters who have not fully completed puberty (Columbine), and by mature terrorists set on their own strategic objectives (Beslan).
The ongoing debate about whether or not police officers should respond solo or in a tactical formation will be left to the discretion of the officer(s) on the scene who are working the problem as they formulate their response plan and put it into action. They will make the decision based on the limited information on hand at the time the problem is unfolding. Both concepts are proper measures of action depending on the situation.
I have watched this drama unfold for several years now and to me the answer is clear. The uniformed officers in this country need tactical options, tactical training, and tactical equipment available to them on the streets. We wouldn’t send our soldiers into combat without proper tactical training so why are we training our uniformed officers a single tactic and professing it’s the best tactic to neutralize an adversary that is hell bent on murdering innocent victims.
The Columbine incident was supposed to be a wake up call for law enforcement and yet we still struggle to grasp the true changes needed in law enforcement. The Columbine shootings started at 11:19 a.m. as the two murderers walked through the school, shooting and killing children. At 11:24 a.m. a Jefferson County Deputy arrived and engaged the two suspects standing at a door. Inside that door a student lay injured from gunshots. The deputy emptied his gun and radioed for assistance. The two suspects ran back into the school and continued the carnage. The injured student made his way to safety and lived. Three others would be murdered shortly thereafter. It’s apparent that the deputy’s actions of engaging the two gunmen may have saved that students life.
Both assailants ran back into the school, killing or injuring another 22 students. During the course of their terror they were able to set fires and ignite small bombs. At 12:08 the two cowards committed suicide. The first SWAT teams entered and started to clear the school at 1:08 p.m. and they found 12 dead students and 22 injured students.
So, let’s ponder the hypothetical idea that this Jefferson County Deputy would have had a level III tactical vest, a tactical ballistic helmet, a patrol rifle with 8-12 magazines and some tactical training. Let’s also assume that other responding deputies would have the same tactical equipment and training. Perhaps these officers are SWAT members but assigned to uniformed duties and carry all their tactical equipment with them.
Either way, they could have arrived on scene and assessed the situation. They could have prepared for combat like our military soldiers do on every mission. They would have donned their tactical gear, formulated a tactical plan and in a matter of minutes they would have been able to confront the two suspects with a clear plan of attack.
Hypothetically, the incident could have concluded in less than five minutes after arrival on scene and not an hour and ten minutes later. This level of response is where professional law enforcement needs to be. I would like to note however, that these deputies and officers at that time where acting as they were taught and as their department protocols demanded. They are not to blame for the response time into the school.
The response to the Virginia Tech massacre is another example of the standard that police agencies should set for their departments. The shooter in this incident entered Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus and killed 32 people.
The entire shooting rampage is estimated to have occurred within eleven minutes. From the time the first 911 calls were received from Norris Hall to the time the shooter kills himself fewer than nine minutes will pass. Blacksburg police and Virginia Tech police arrived at Norris Hall and made entry into the building in less than five minutes. Once entry was gained and the team moved toward the sound of shots fired, it took just 28 seconds for police to reach the second floor. Cho took his own life as the two teams searched for the killer.
The officers that entered Norris Hall arrived and assessed the situation, formulated a plan of action and began working the problem. They where equipped with tactical equipment and some were patrol officers that were also on the part time SWAT teams. They encountered problems like you will on any tactical mission but they overcame these obstacles and their presence neutralized the killer.
Another standard that police agencies should strive to achieve is the response to a gunman who burst into a North Carolina nursing home and started shooting everything, killing seven residents and a nurse and wounding at least three others. The lone officer has been praised as a hero and did exactly what he was trained to do. The Carthage police chief told reporters it is standard procedure for an officer to go in without backup for some emergency situations "where multiple lives are at stake."
The officer hit the suspect with the only round he fired. Within minutes, other officers responded to assist but the uniformed Warrior had already neutralized the suspect.
This incident is an obvious success from a law enforcements perspective. However, this officer still could have benefited from a level III vest, and a ballistic helmet.
These incidents are only a small sample of the types of responses to active shooters. There are many more examples that make the case for solo entry and small unit tactics. The common theme here that is being overlooked is that patrol officers need the same tactical options that are available to SWAT. If not, then SWAT needs to be held to a standard of response that is much quicker than the old way of doing business as it applies to acts of terrorism or an active shooter incident.
If the majority of the tactical teams in this country are part time and or multi-jurisdictional, I think it’s safe to say that the response time for these units probably average around an hour or more. Obviously, the active shooter incidents in this country prove that we only have minutes. So, why is an hour still an acceptable response time? The answer is: it’s not. Active shooters are a patrol problem unless patrol has tactical officers on the road.
Tactical officers that are assigned to the patrol division should be allowed to carry their tactical weapons and tactical gear in their patrol cars. Departments could also have one officer sign out and carry in their patrol cars various items such as less lethal munitions, chemical munitions, audio and video electronics for scouting, flash bangs, shields and any other equipment to support a small squad tactical mission. Uniformed officers would then be able to respond with more protective gear, better weapon systems and most importantly the tactical skills and knowledge that only SWAT has been getting for so many years.
SWAT has many and various options available to them for any given tactical problem to help them resolve it successfully. Each tactic is specific to that particular SWAT problem. You won’t hear from most SWAT cops that any “one” tactic is the only tactic to use. That’s because different tactics will net different results. That concept also applies to patrol responding to active shooter incidents. The mentioned active shooter incidents are proof of that.
It’s time we stop arguing about which active shooter response is best and train in all the various concepts. You Warriors can only enhance your response capabilities by educating yourselves in as many tactics as possible. Like any other call for service, it should be left to the responding officers’ discretion which tactic to employ when it’s your life on the line.
The single greatest factor that will change the way law enforcement does business with terrorists and active shooters is to change the current mindset of contemporary policing. While there’s no doubt that answering calls for service is the primary function for patrol, it’ll be patrol to be the first to respond to the terrorist or active shooter.
When the time comes for your agency to respond to such an event it is our duty to provide the innocent victims with the most professional police response available. That means giving the uniformed Warrior the proper tactical gear to protect himself as he enters into combat, the same way a firefighter putting on his protective gear to battle a fire. It also means giving the uniformed Warrior the training, tactics and skills to bring the incident to a successfully resolution.
Ultimately, success for the officer is success for his department and its image. Progressive police agencies are starting to slowly make this transition. They recognize the importance of giving their Warriors the proper tools for success. The day may be near when the debate on how to respond to active shooters will be a thing of the past.
Honoring the warriors of Oakland PD
with Sgt. Glenn French
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that late afternoon Saturday, a group of about 50 people lined 73rd Avenue, a block from where Dunakin and Hege were shot. Some shouted obscenities at police. Others said the officers' deaths were retribution for the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, the unarmed Hayward man killed by a BART Police Officer on an Oakland train platform New Year's Day. Shouts of, "They had it coming!" were heard in the crowd.
I would like the Officers of the Oakland Police department to know that during this time of grief and uncertainty that we are all OPD!
We see short glimpse's of the story on the network news and big city newspapers but certainly not the same amount of coverage that it deserves. Don’t let the lack of support in the media and insults hurled by small groups of radical citizens fool your heart into believing that you are going this alone. The Warriors that patrol every street in this nation grieve with you now. Every SWAT cop that dons his call out gear to bring a conclusion to violent situations grieves with you.
Today, we are all OPD!
I would like to remind all of you Patrol Officers, Traffic Officers, and SWAT Cops of the importance of being a well prepared warrior. A well prepared warrior anticipates that every time he is in contact with another person—whether it’s a traffic stop or a larceny report—he may have to engage the “Warrior Spirit” without a moments notice to survive an encounter that may take his life.
How do we capture that spirit? First, you must always approach every call as if your about to encounter a deadly force situation, no matter what the radio call is. It is most important however, to treat every citizen, victim, suspect, and witness in a professional manner. Treat them the way you would want to be treated if you were that person, but if the situation goes south, engaging the “Warrior Spirit” needs to be automatic. Your focus must teeter on that fine edge with every citizen encounter as if you’re preparing for a SWAT operation. Your focus needs to be clear and you must have the ability to switch to a fighting mode in a fraction of a second without any hesitation. You must always assume that every citizen contact can become a deadly force encounter and if it does you won’t accept failure.
In 1725 a Mohican Chief named “Aupumut” told his warriors:
“When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home”.
Chief Aupumut obviously recognized that his warriors’ mindset was the first step in the overall preparation of their development.
The “Warrior Spirit” is a combination of confidence, concentration, and tenacity. Those qualities are worthless without the physical skill and ability to complete the task but so, too, are the physical abilities without the proper mindset.
Here are a few tips to help develop the “Warrior Spirit”:
• Be “aware” all the time and “anticipate” a threat
• Train like you fight
• Never quit
• Build confidence through training and fitness
• Fight chaos with chaos. Use speed, surprise, and violence of action
• Create the mindset that killing a homicidal adversary is an acceptable action
Here is a training principle that I like to use when training SWAT officers:
“Training should be designed to be uncomfortable, physically and mentally, it should take officers to stressful dark places where they have never gone before, under a controlled environment, so that if they are ever taken there by an adversary it won’t be their first time.”
An officer’s ability to react under duress, pain, and seemingly insurmountable odds remains the hallmark of the “Warrior Spirit.” Tenacity against an adversary must be trained, expected, and demanded from our officers.
This past weekend the officers of the Oakland Police Department fought like “Warriors.”
Today their “Warrior Spirit” lives in all of us.
Today, we are all OPD.
with Sgt. Glenn French
On April 16th, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed two students in a dormitory room at Virginia Tech University. Two hours and 20 minutes later, Cho entered the Norris Hall engineering building. He then systematically assaulted five rooms on the second floor. In his wake, he left 30 students and professors murdered, and an additional 24 victims injured. Within minutes, officers from Virginia Tech P.D. and Blacksburg P.D. entered Norris Hall and forced Cho to take his own life.
Cho began planning and training for his attack in February 2007. He purchased a .22 caliber Walther P-22 handgun over the Internet and in March 2007 he purchased a 9mm Glock from a licensed dealer. Later that month, Cho purchased two extra magazines for the Walther and three extra magazines for the Glock on the internet. He also purchased additional ammunition, magazines, a hunting knife, several chains, four padlocks, and a multi pocket fishing vest. Cho would visit local gun ranges and a national forest shooting range to practice his shooting skills. He also started an intense workout program, which included a weight lifting regimen.
The morning of the massacre Cho shoots and kills his first two victims between 0702 and 0715 in a dormitory on the Virginia Tech campus and flees. At 0720 Virginia Tech police are notified that a female may have fallen from her dorm room bed and a rescue squad was dispatched. Shortly after VTPD respond and by 0730 the crime scene is secured and VTPD begins its investigation into the suspected homicide. VTPD and Blacksburg Police Department ERT officers begin to arrive at approximately 0815 and stage in different areas to assist in a warrant service or to make an arrest of the unknown suspect(s).
At approximately 0901, Cho mails a package to NBC news in New York from the Blacksburg Post Office. The package contains his manifesto, 43 photos of himself and a DVD of himself. He alludes to a “coming massacre” and expresses he wants to “get even” with his “oppressors.”
Construction workers outside of Norris Hall between 0915 and 0930 witness Cho. He then chains and padlocks all three doors to Norris Hall. A building maintenance worker discovers a note on the east breezeway doors stating, “If the chains are removed a bomb will go off.” The worker took the note to a Dean’s office and they were allegedly about to call the police when the shooting started.
Between 0941 and 0942 Cho begins his assault on Norris Hall shooting professors and students. The first 911 call reaches VTPD at 0942. At 0945 Officers from BPD and VTPD arrive at Norris Hall. They form up into three separate teams and plan on making entry at three different points of Norris Hall. They hear what appear to be shots fired while attempting to gain entry. They discover that all three doors at their entry points have been chain locked from the interior. A couple attempts at shooting the locks off with a shotgun fail but at 0950 VTPD officers breach a door with a shotgun that leads into a machine shop. The two entry teams enter the machine shop and are now inside the shooters stronghold.
The two entry team commanders determine the gunshots are coming from the second floor. One-team races up a stairway on the west side and another team races down the first floor hallway until they get to the south stairway and they proceed up to the second floor. Both teams are shouting “Police” as they maneuver up the staircase. The two teams now have Cho flanked and he is caught between them.
Cho shoots one last victim then turns the gun on himself and takes his own life. From the time the teams breach the Machine shop doors and get positioned on the second floor only 28 seconds pass.
At this point, the two teams are unaware that Cho has killed himself. Nor do they know how many gunmen there are. The gunshots have stopped and the team leaders fear the gunman may have taken a hostage or are planning to ambush the entry teams. The third entry team element now links up with one of the two entry teams on the second floor. They clear and secure as they move.
A student in the room where Cho is calls 911 at 1008 and advises the dispatcher that Cho is dead and his location. The two teams now receive info from dispatch where the gunman(s) location is but not that he is dead. They immediately close in on that classroom and discover the door is blocked from inside with two of the victims bodies lying against the door. One of the team leaders instructs anybody inside the classroom that can open the door to do so. The only two people not shot in that classroom open the door and the entry teams discover Cho is dead and advise that the shooter is down. The building is then completely cleared in case of multiple threats. Also, a massive evacuation of the wounded from the officers inside the building begins.
The entire shooting rampage is estimated to have occurred within eleven minutes. From the time the first 911 call was received from Norris Hall to the time Cho kills himself fewer than nine minutes will pass. Once the officers arrived at Norris Hall and make entry into the building, less than five minutes will pass. Once entry was gained and the team moves to the sound of shots fired and reach the second floor twenty-eight seconds will pass. Cho takes his own life within two minutes of the Machine Shop door being breached.
In that time, Cho fires 174 rounds of 9mm and .22, 17 magazines were found empty or partially empty and an additional 203 rounds were found in his backpack. Cho murders 30 people and injuries another 27 in Norris Hall.
It should be noted that the second floor has seven classrooms and four of those classrooms Cho breached and murdered innocent students. The doors on the second floor opened inward and had no windows.
So what tactical points must we consider for future active shooter responses?
(1) We must train for an active shooter incident or a terrorist event with other agencies that may respond to a critical incident in your jurisdiction. Blacksburg P.D. and Virginia Tech P.D.’s did and that was critical to their success.
(2) Breaching gear and training is crucial to have for SWAT and Patrol. Your departments must have several breaching options available, including shotgun breaching, breaching packs and explosive breaching. The shotgun breaching allowed the teams to make entry in the Machine Shop at Virginia Tech. Does your department have one or more of those options available to you?
(3) Get training to use your patrol car as a breaching tool. A simple slow push from the front of any roller will push in the doorframe of most buildings. Once inside turn on your sirens and lights to provide a safe passage for fleeing victims and it will alert the shooter that you’re inside and on the way to neutralize him. If your making a single man entry, this buys you time to gather intelligence and wait for back up while standing ready using the car for limited cover. Remember as soon as Cho knew that the police were in the building he decided to kill himself. If your entry makes him go to ground either by suicide, barricading him self or hiding then he has stopped the killing. That is your objective.
(4) Move to the shooter and bring him to ground quickly to eliminate the threat.
(5) Stay tactical throughout your movement. The teams inside Norris Hall maintained cover for their movements and cleared rooms as they closed ground on the shooter.
(6) Get one or more tactical medics on your team or in patrol. Both tactical teams in Norris Hall had tactical medics and every wounded victim that was evacuated from Norris Hall lived. There are no reasons why a patrolman or SWAT operator can’t be trained in Tactical Combat Casualty Care. How many times do police officers get injured or shot and E.M.S is minutes away? This valuable training will help officers quickly access a victims injuries which will expedite your teams movement or save an officers life.
(7) The Blacksburg and Virginia Tech tactical teams were already assembled and standing by on the campus or at BPD headquarters (which is approximately a mile away from Norris Hall) due to the initial two homicides at the dorm. If Cho had assaulted Norris Hall first, the response from the police departments would have been different. The response time would have been greater. Swat commanders and Tactical officers need to help prepare patrol for a quick tactical response.
(8) Terrorist organizations around the world most likely watched this response and will use the same intelligence we have access to in the U.S. against us. Remember, we are tasked with responding to all active shooter and terrorist events in this country not the military. When they come they will be have more people, larger weapons, better trained and a better plan than Cho. Also they are more likely to fight to the death as opposed to committing suicide.
Unfortunately, this type of attack will most likely occur again in the United States. Are you prepared to fight for our children? Is your department giving you the training and equipment needed to respond to such an event? If you don’t adequately train, prepare, and respond to a “Virginia Tech” type of incident, then monsters like Cho will continue to kill our children.
The Blacksburg and Virginia Tech police officers did an outstanding job responding to a complex tactical problem.
Follow their lead and prepare for the worst, properly train and equip your officers to fight like Warriors!
with Sgt. Glenn French
Learning from the mistakes of the past will make us all safer during SWAT operations in the future. OpTac International recently released research on deaths among SWAT operators while on SWAT operations and during training accidents.
Their research found that from 2004-2008, 71 percent of SWAT officer deaths occurred in training or from friendly fire. During that period, 12 SWAT operators died while training or when accidently shot by another SWAT operator. For that same period, five SWAT operators died on SWAT operations as a result of a suspect fatally shooting the operator.
Two significant points stand out about those two figures. The first is that SWAT cops are “locked on” when doing live SWAT operations—for all the thousands of SWAT operations that are conducted in this country every year, only five SWAT cops in that four year span died at the hands of their adversary(s). Of those five who made ultimate sacrifice, two may have been prevented with the use of ballistic armor.
However, the second point is that we are needlessly killing ourselves in training or by friendly fire, more than on live SWAT operations. The number of officers killed in training and by friendly fire is more than double than in live SWAT operations. That is unacceptable, as SWAT Warriors and we owe it to each other to reduce the number of training and friendly fire deaths.
It is obvious that the professional SWAT cop has become an elite Warrior willing to dedicate his time and efforts to uphold the ideals of Inspector Daryl Gates and Officer John Nelson, the fathers of modern day SWAT. However, if 71 percent of SWAT deaths occur in training or due to friendly fire during operations, then it is also obvious that we still have room to improve.
Here is how the 12 training deaths break down: six SWAT cops died from gunfire, four SWAT cops died from heart attacks and illness, and two SWAT cops fell to their deaths. So how do we achieve a safer SWAT environment in the field during SWAT operations and in training?
I took this question to Stuart Meyers, president of OpTac International. I asked Stuart what SWAT cops can do to improve their safety in live SWAT operations and he stated that “target identification” was the greatest factor in what he calls “Blue Death” (friendly fire). Also “excessive fatigue and officer’s failure to wear issued ballistic protective gear on call outs” were other issues in live operations. Stuart stressed the importance of having relief available for your SWAT cops for lengthy SWAT operations. He also recommends wearing ballistic face shields.
When the conversation turned to “Blue Deaths” in training, Stuart said that too many departments haven’t instituted safety standards and protocols for their department. If your department doesn’t already have a policy in place, I encourage you to visit the OpTac Web site and download their recommended training standards. Lastly, he recommends having a Physician on scene at training and during SWAT operations in case of any medical emergency.
He isn’t recommending that we do away with TEMS but his point is a good one: “If that potentially lethal injury occurs, then the physician can treat the victim immediately and not lose valuable minutes.” TEMS is a critical component of SWAT and is designed to enhance SWAT operations, but if your agency responded to a critical incident with mass casualties or multiple SWAT cops with injuries, your volunteer Physician may be crucial in saving a SWAT cops life. The volunteer Physician is a great idea and I will discuss that topic in a future article.
I have been involved with SWAT, tactical command, training of SWAT operators, and Snipers for some time now and here are some observations and suggestions from my experience. First, SWAT commanders must take full responsibility for every aspect of SWAT. It is their responsibility to provide safe SWAT operations and training. They can start with educating themselves in the many disciplines of SWAT operations. Don’t get caught up in thinking your team has the best tactic or there is nothing else you can learn from others. That mentality is a recipe for disaster. Once you have a strong working knowledge of SWAT operations then the development of sound procedures will lay the foundation for safe operations and training.
The second component is the selection of personnel. It is important to select candidates that are qualified to perform SWAT operations and then put them through rigorous training to evaluate their abilities. Once the selection is made, never hesitate to remove a SWAT cop from the team if he has been identified as a liability. If you commanders fail to take responsibility for your SWAT team then you are rolling the dice with your officer’s safety.
Here is an example of failing to take full responsibility for your SWAT team. A couple of year’s back I was the Sniper Team Leader on a SWAT operation. After the team was briefed, I advised my eight man sniper team to prepare to move out. We started to move from the command post to get into our positions a couple blocks away. I started to lead the team away in a single file when all of a sudden, the sniper behind me touched off a .308 round. That bullet nearly struck the back of my head and I spent the rest of the call-out thinking about my wife and kids.
Aside from the obvious—if the weapon wasn’t loaded, or the safety selector was on ‘safe,’ or the operator kept his finger off the trigger—could that mistake have been prevented or avoided? Unfortunately, yes. This incident could have been prevented if the SWAT operator had been removed from the team much earlier in his career, when I advised the department brass of the problems that we identified with him early on. Failure to act on identified problems almost cost me my life. SWAT commanders must take full responsibility for their SWAT teams.
Selection of SWAT personnel is just as important as any other factor—we must select individuals that are qualified to be SWAT officers. S WAT cops should be subjected to a basic evaluation process that includes interviews, a review of the officer’s personnel file, basic shooting skills and a physical agility test. I realize that smaller agencies have a smaller pool of candidates to pick from but that is no excuse to choose an unqualified candidate for SWAT and place other SWAT operators in harms way.
Don’t let friendships get in the way of making the proper selection. You will have to interview candidates that include good friends of yours—guys that come over to your house and guys you spend time with on the weekends. If that individual isn’t the right guy for the team, then be up front with him and articulate your reasons. It’s your responsibility to choose the most qualified candidate.
All candidates should attend a basic tactical course. I am aware of agencies that don’t require this and obviously your just exposing yourself and your agency to potential problems. There are real benefits to requiring your officers to attend a mandatory basic course. The biggest advantage is SWAT commanders will be able to evaluate the SWAT candidate before sending him into SWAT operations or to team training. If your candidate is having real problems that can’t be corrected by the conclusion of the SWAT course than it’s time to thank him for his interest and efforts and send him back to his unit. Selecting the right individuals for SWAT may be the most important factor in keeping your SWAT operations safe.
My next point is sure to spark some debate. Ten years ago I was training as an explosive breacher at T.E.E.S. and got to train with the founder, Alan Brosnan. Alan didn’t want us to do the explosive entries portion of the training on his compound with our weapons selector switch on “full auto” or “fire” until a threat presented itself and you were going to engage it. He also recommended that we operate this way in live SWAT operations. His theory was that a SWAT operator could identify his threat, switch his safety selector from safe to fire as he places his firing finger on the trigger to engage his threat just as fast as any other technique. By doing so, SWAT cops can reduce the number of accidental discharges and friendly fire incidents.
At first I thought this would slow my response time when I engaged my threats. However Alan timed our entries the first and last days of the course while using this tactic. When we finished the course I was a believer—I could manipulate my MP-5 safety selector from safe to fire just as fast as I could do it on fire from the start. There was no doubt in my mind that I was a safer operator for using this tactic.
I asked Staurt Meyers about his opinion on this tactic and he indicated that he wouldn’t recommend doing it because “officers may fail to switch the safety selector under the stress of being in a gun fight.”
I called Alan Brosnan to see if he still advocates this technique. Alan stated he still does and gave me this reason why: “When officers get holsters for their handguns, Sergeants don’t allow their officers to walk around with their holsters unsecured so the officer can access it quicker. The officer practices drawing his handgun from the holster so he doesn’t have a problem drawing his gun.”
His point was the motion to manipulate your retention holster can be mastered with training and that drawing from a holster is much bigger motion than flipping a safety selector switch from safe to fire. Whether you agree with Alan or Stuart on this, I encourage you to at least give it a try in training and see if it works for your team.
The last element is dedicating your efforts to training. Don’t waste one of your monthly training days playing basketball in a gym. Get in the field and train. Those agencies that waste training days because they are lazy may live to regret their work ethic if one of their Warriors fall victim to a needless mishap.
I like to take SWAT operators to an uncomfortable place in SWAT training so if an adversary takes your Warrior to that same uncomfortable place, it won’t be his first time there. This increases his chances for success and survival. Through tough training, your motor skills develop and become the SWAT operator’s automatic pilot. If your training is intense, of sound principle, and conducted to the point of redundancy, then when your adversary chooses combat your automatic motor skills will take over before your brain can process the situation and you will walk away the victor.
I would like to commend OpTac International for its diligent work and Stuart Meyers for his continued commitment to the SWAT community. Also, I encourage all SWAT Commanders and Operators to take responsibility for your SWAT teams in live operations and in training. Keep in mind that twice as many SWAT cops died in training then at the hand of their adversary(s), so maintain the same intensity in training as you do on a SWAT operations.
Commit yourselves to Excellence and the Warrior spirit on all your SWAT operations and training days.
Ed Note: Two weeks ago, less than a dozen militants held at bay some 800 well-trained police for 60 hours, throwing a major metropolitan area into utter chaos, and leaving law enforcement officers around the globe thinking: “What will we do when this happens on our watch?”
PoliceOne has collected the thoughts of several people in law enforcement with the purpose of kick-starting a dialog about how the events in Mumbai provide an opportunity to consider the nature of the threat we may one day face here in the U.S. We encourage you to read the opinions and analysis here and to participate in this discussion.
The following contribution represents the opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PoliceOne, Praetorian Group, or our sponsors.
By Sgt. Glenn French, Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department
The recent Attacks in Mumbai serve as a warning for U.S. Law Enforcement and if we fail to acknowledge this warning we will fail as this nation’s Guardians. Police departments across the United States need to prepare for such an event. Through training, equipment and the warrior spirit our officers can prevail when these terrorist knock on our doors.
Sergeant Glenn French has 18 years police experience and currently serves as the Sergeant of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau, Crime Prevention and DARE unit. He has ten years SWAT experience and served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, & Explosive Breacher for the Macomb County SWAT team. He also is the President of the Detroit Special Operations Group tactical training company.
Here is what we know as of today: one terrorist was captured and 10 others were killed. The captured terrorist told authorities he belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamic group. Lashkar e Taiba assaulted two hotels, a restaurant, a Jewish center and other sites killing at least 174 people, including six Americans. Three of Mumbai’s top anti-terrorism officials were gunned down in a van when the assault started. Some of the targets chosen by the militants, such as the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, would challenge most police and security organizations.
The alleged attacker, identified as a Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Qasam, told interrogators that they wanted to go down in history for an "Indian 9/11" and were also inspired by the bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. The gunmen had booked a room in the Taj Mahal hotel to store explosives. The captured militant told investigators the gang aimed to blow up the hotel and hoped to kill a total of 5,000 people.
Mumbai has no equivalent of a SWAT team. It took hours to decide to send in the nation's rapid-response National Security Guards, based in New Delhi. The capital is three hours away by air, but no military aircraft were available and the unit evidently lacked authority to requisition a commercial plane. Military transport was flown in from elsewhere.
On reaching Mumbai, the guards were driven to the hostage sites by bus and then briefed. By the time they took up positions, many hours had passed. At the two hotels, a few militants kept hundreds of commandos at bay for two days. Senior commanders would announce that sections of the buildings had been cleared, only to see the attackers move back in.
Government forces lacked hotel floor plans, although the militants seemed to have had them and apparently had stockpiled explosives and ammunition at the sites. And the commandos lacked an effective command structure or a good communication system, experts said, whereas the terrorists reportedly used BlackBerrys and GPS devices to navigate and monitor news coverage.
Onlookers were allowed to watch from a few feet away, hampering police operations. A night counterattack was nixed, reportedly because it was too dark.
The attackers had night vision goggles. The police didn't.
Conventional theory suggests that commandos move quickly once there's indication that hostages are in imminent danger, in hopes of getting at least a few out alive. Yet days passed until, in the end, all hostages at the center were killed.
"You can wait, but you use that wait to engage the terrorists and plan," said Yoram Schweitzer, an international terrorism expert at Tel Aviv's Institute for National Security Studies. "Then you engage them quickly, with shock, prepare for a maximum one to two minute strike."
Assaf Hefetz, a former Israeli police commissioner who created the country’s police anti-terror unit three decades ago, watched the slow-motion operation in disbelief. The commandos should have swarmed the building in a massive, coordinated attack that would have overwhelmed the gunmen and ended the standoff in seconds. “You have to come from the roof and all the windows and all the doors and create other entrances by demolition charges.” The slow pace of the operations made it appear that the commandos' main goal was to stay safe. “You have to take the chance and the danger that your people can be hurt and some of them will be killed, but do it much faster and ensure the operation will be finished quickly.”
So where does U.S. Law Enforcement begin? We must first acknowledge that it’s only a matter of time before this type of terror strikes the U.S.A. and take lessons from 9-11, Columbine, and the many other domestic terror events that have already stricken this country. Then we must look at the Beslan siege and the many other international terror events that have occurred around the world.
Once we come to terms with the fact that we live in a world that wants to destroy democracy and western culture then we can properly prepare. We must train our officers to be Warriors as they face these dangers. They must be taught to fight Chaos with Chaos, to use speed and surprise to their advantage when doing room and building clearing tactics. They must be trained to “Dominate the stronghold with an overwhelming amount of force.”
Then when they start thinking as Warriors they must be taught that as the first arriving officers to an active shooter or terrorist event “their actions will dictate the course of events for that event.” The point is that if our police officers decide to deal with the problem immediately then it’s less likely their adversary’s will have time to further murder innocent victims and less time to fortify their stronghold.
We must then provide them with tactical training, such as tactical room entries, tactical building entries, single officer entries, the diamond formation and Emergency Rapid Deployment tactics. Equipment is as important as any other area. If we expect our patrol officers to handle an event like Mumbai, Columbine or Beslan and we want them to be successful then give them the proper tools. Every officer in this county should have access to a patrol rifle, ballistic helmet and a level III tactical vest. Patrol officers also need access to breaching tools (including explosive breachers), night vision goggles, pole camera’s and tactical gas munitions.
Our Patrol Supervisors need basic tactical command training so they can deal with a critical incident that requires an immediate response. All of the concepts, training and equipment I have mentioned are not foreign to SWAT officers. These things are standard for most SWAT teams. So it comes down to this; if we want our patrol officers to deal with SWAT problems then they need tactical training and equipment and when that’s the standard for patrol officers our country will be prepared to deal with these terrorists.
with Sgt. Glenn French
Terrorism strikes, U.S. law enforcement responds
It’s being reported that Nidal Malik Hasan yelled “Allahu Akbar,” an Islamic exclamation in Arabic which means “Allah is the Greatest,” as he went on a murderous rampage which took the lives of 13 Americans. It’s also reported 31 other persons were injured.
My heart goes out to the soldiers and families of the 1st Cavalry Division of Fort Hood. I had the privilege to serve with soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division and they are truly one of the Army’s finest fighting units.
Godspeed to all the victims, soldiers, and families of the 1st Cavalry Division — indeed, to all the units affected by this tragic event.
As I read the early reports on this event a couple points came to mind. Since the 9/11 attacks I have assured many military soldiers as they deploy to combat overseas not to worry about their families stateside because “we have their backs” as they fight for Americans, Democracy, and an end to terrorism.
The law enforcement response to this active shooter incident lived up to my promise to these warriors.
We must commend the officer(s) that neutralized Hasan and his terrorist actions.
Once again, U.S. Law Enforcement was ready to combat violence.
For the past 12 years American Law Enforcement has trained and responded for this type of event. Unfortunately, terrorists in this country and overseas may view this incident as a success due to the international coverage and the number of casualties. However, it also sends another message and that is “American Law Enforcement is prepared to combat your radical attempts to squash democracy, liberty, and Christianity.”
The responding officer(s) surely demonstrated this with their heroic actions. For some time I have written about the importance of readiness for such an event. Don’t think for a minute that terrorists won’t look at this incident and learn from it. It’s obvious that if a lone active shooter can infiltrate a military installation — Hasan was apparently stationed at the base — and cause so much carnage then this country is full of soft targets.
My message is simple for the front line patrol officers and SWAT cops: “Train hard, be prepared, and defend our nation when you’re called to duty.”
One of my favorite quotes is from one of America’s original fighting warriors, a Mohican Chief named “Aupumut.” Chief Aupumut told his warriors: “when it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”
Take his words with you as you patrol the streets, when you train for active shooter events and when you are called to fight terrorism on American soil.
When you see a soldier, thank him for his service and reassure him not to worry about his family because we “have his six.” He will know this phrase well and when he ships out perhaps he will have the confidence that his sacrifices won’t be in vein.
Early reports have also indicated that many lives may have been saved by the soldiers as they provided “combat first aid” to casualties during the shooting rampage.
Soldiers are trained in combat life saving, which provides care to casualties until EMS or Medics can render advanced aid. I have written about this concept in the past and I believe that tactical life saver training needs to become mainstream — rather than the rarity — in law enforcement and I urge you to get the training.
Fort Hood was locked down for some time when this incident occurred. The initial responders thought there was more than one shooter at multiple locations. There where reports of many casualties. The chaos from any active shooter event can delay EMS response for some time.
If this delay occurs at an incident you have responded to you may save the life of a comrade or an innocent victim with combat life saver training. For example the EMS response to the L.A. bank robbery, Columbine, and Virginia Tech were delayed due to the ongoing active shooter threat just like at Fort Hood. I strongly urge you to seek out the combat life saver training in your area and prepare yourself.
Remember: “Training, preparation, and the Warrior Spirit are the cornerstones to victory in combat.”