Better Response to Barricades

Our servicemen and women are special in many ways and they should be treated as such.

Wintrick was the architect of recent training that was provided to his fellow officers after his unit recognized that the uniforms should have been the first tripping point to initiate a SWAT call-out, as they were handling highly dangerous tactical incidents. However, they were not calling SWAT due to several reasons, some of which were identified as a training deficiency. Wintrick felt the officers needed to be briefed on what is often regarded as SWAT tactics since they were fulfilling a tactical role once it becomes apparent that a suspect refuses to exit their home or other location of defensibility.

The Phases

Cops know that it can hit the fan quick. SWAT knows that when it hits the fan it is usually preceded by a few phases first. Wintrick taught the officers that if a suspect does not immediately exit a home when asked by the police to do so, then it would be prudent for the officers to immediately consider the event as a potential ambush. According to Wintrick, the initial responding officers should react by -

  • Taking solid cover
  • Request additional uniform elements
  • Perform an observational function to gather intelligence and never give up gathering it since the value of intelligence changes moment by moment.
  • Relay the intelligence gathered to SWAT elements forming up; provide continual updates.
  • This phase of activity is known as the Observation Phase.

Once sufficient manpower arrives, the Observation Phase now turns into the Containment Phase. During this stage officers should:

  • Establish an Emergency Action Team (EAT) as quickly as possible.
  • The EAT, minimum of two officers, needs to serve an immediate counter to a threat posed by the barricaded suspect. If the suspect attempts to flee, the EAT element will make the apprehension and should be prepared to do so regardless of the method the suspect may use (foot, bike or car). Advanced planning is required here to surmise options. If the suspect presents a lethal threat then the EAT will address the threat. Less lethal capability should also be deployed to the EAT if possible.
  • Once the EAT is in position, then other officers need to further seal off the perimeter and continue to gather intelligence. An on-scene commander should consider delegating an officer to quickly interview neighbors, family members and friends if possible. Desirable information to obtain would be the suspect identity, hostages, suspect capabilities, weapons available, drug usage, mental issues, combatives experience and any other information you would want to know if you had to violently confront someone.
  • Placement of initial responding cruisers is vitally important too. Officers, depending on suspect/weaponry threats (distance varies), need to deploy their vehicles tactically to block off roads, but at the same time be able to move them once SWAT arrives of if EMS is needed.

Generally the first person to speak with a barricaded suspect is not the Hostage Negotiator, but rather the basic patrol officer. This fact highlights the need for all officers to have at least a minimal amount of training for understanding the hostage negotiations process, with the goal of not making the incident worse prior to the arrival of a negotiator. An incident extending beyond an hour quickly necessitates the need for mutual aid among agencies, especially when most police departments in the U.S. average around 10 officers per agency or less!

Spending a few minutes in roll call discussing the positional roles of how patrol officers can better handle their response to a barricaded subject could mean the difference between life and death. As more and more troops rotate home at the end of their overseas tour of duty, the likelihood of police officers encountering a violent, out of control, service-or former military service member continues to grow. As I said earlier, our servicemen and women are special in many ways and they should be treated as such.

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