Special Weapons and Tactics teams have lately gotten a bad rap both here on TTAG and in the press. Stories abound of SWAT teams kicking in doors (sometimes the wrong door), shooting the family dog, killing innocent people and generally being a major nuisance.  It’s enough to have us crying from the tops of every tower to disband SWAT teams and go back to the good old days of policing. The problem is that the world has changed . . .

The concept of the SWAT team dates back to the late 1960’s in the Los Angeles area where the need for more highly trained and better equipped units of the police forces were necessary to deal with situations that were beyond the capability of regular officers.  It can be argued that as time has gone on, the need for these types of teams has grown as the drug trade has gained a greater foothold in this country and we see more instances of both domestic and foreign terrorism.

These bad guys seem to have no problems procuring the latest weapons with which to do their worst, including full-automatic weapons. They also have access to advanced body armor. And they’re not necessarily stupid or poorly trained. The average small-town police department could easily find themselves hopelessly outgunned if they stumble upon a meth lab or serving a warrant.

This latter case was made starkly clear this past April in Greenland, NH. The local Police Chief lost his life attempting to serve a warrant on an offender with a drug and firearms arrest history. The offender killed one officer wounded four others. Mistakes may have been made but it seems reasonably clear the situation required a more heavily armed force.

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Society needs some form of specially trained well-equipped police team to handle these dangerous situations. The existence of SWAT teams is not the problem. It’s the way the concept has been applied in recent years. As the death of U.S. Marine Jose Guerena illustrates [above], SWAT teams need better training, supervision, deployment and accountability.

Officers on SWAT teams should receive the highest possible level of training, to the level required by the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). The officials responsible for organizing the teams should pay as close attention to the Tactics portion of the name as they do the weapons.

Of course this type of training costs a lot of money. Which is why responsibility for SWAT teams should rest at the State Police level. Not every podunk city needs a SWAT team. Equipping and training a small number of elite teams would be cheaper and more effective than having every city put its own force of poorly trained teams on the street.

The myriad of “mistakes” perpetrated by some members of SWAT teams should not be tolerated. If an officer has an ND (Negligent Discharge), they should be off SWAT. In the case of a particularly egregious offense, termination of employment altogether or jail time should follow. Any SWAT action should be personally approved by senior police officials who know that their ass is on the line for mistakes.

As a law abiding citizen, I certainly fear the day when a team mistakenly kicks my door down in the middle of the night. But, at the same time, should I or my loved ones ever find themselves in the sort of position where a highly trained SWAT team might mean the difference between them living or dying, I’ll be damn glad if there’s such a team ready to help.

SWAT is a good and necessary concept in today’s world. The current execution model sucks. But not always . . .

We all read about the mistakes made by SWAT teams, but we seem to never hear much about the situations where the right team with the right training saves the day. We need some form of militarized police forces, we just need to do a better job figuring out how to gain the benefits without the drawbacks.

79 Responses to In Defense of SWAT

  1. First off, the majority of the times that they’re “needed” wouldn’t exist if we didn’t make drugs illegal to try to control people’s choices. If someone chooses to fry their brain, that’s no one’s business but their own.

    As for “and we see more instances of both domestic and foreign terrorism”? I’d say that warrants a huge [CITATION NEEDED]. Especially, on the rare occasion that there is a terrorist incident, how often is a SWAT team involved? From the few incidents that I’ve heard about over the last several years, that would be a grand total of zero times.

    We had far more heavily armed and dangerous criminals 80 years ago, yet we didn’t have stormtroopers running around murdering anyone who got in their way in the name of “helping people” back then.

    • SWAT isn’t just for drugs any more, they also move on other crimes too. Like not paying taxes or library fines.

    • With current surveillance/tracking capabilities no-knock, dark of night raids border on the absurd. This is a gov’t and law enforcement mindset problem. Perps have to eat, shit and move about like the rest of us. Their patterns can be observed and a safe place to isolate and apprehend them can be determined without kicking in doors. The only excuse for their existence is active shooter/kidnapper scenarios. Swat and war on terror are more akin to a modern CCC gov’t jobs program. If these guys really knew their business there would be more finesse and less brash bashing and blasting. Ultimately this is about conditioning and control of the population, not law enforcement or public safety.

      • But going through the door at 5 AM, shooting the dog, breaking up the furniture and terrorizing the family on the floor in their pajamas makes a better point ” We’re in charge and own you”
        Besides, what would the budget for doing things with technology look like compared to buying tanks, weapons, body armor and hiring more muscle?

    • Whether frying your brain with drugs is your business or not depends on your actions after your brain is fried.

      For instance, If you decide eat the face off of another person. Your fried brain due to drug use become a public hazard.

      I can see legalizing marijuana, but I cannot fathom why you would advocate for legalizing substances like meth, heroin, PCP, and other ‘hard’ drugs.

      • Whether frying your brain with drugs is your business or not depends on your actions after your brain is fried.

        For instance, If you decide eat the face off of another person. Your fried brain due to drug use become a public hazard.

        Assault, murder, theft, rape, reckless driving, and every other crime that could be committed while on drugs is already illegal. If you break one of those laws, whether sober, drunk, or on drugs, you suffer the consequences.

        You’re using gun grabber logic and thinking that if we make it more illegal, people won’t commit that crime – and it’s simply not true.

        • Here’s a little algebra:

          What we have now is:

          (Crimes/violence generated by people taking drugs) + (Crimes/violence generated because drugs are illegal)

          What we would have after legalization would be

          (Crimes/violence generated by people taking drugs)

          In other words,

          Pre-legalization = (A + B)
          Post-legalization = (A)

          To believe that post-legalization would be worse than pre-legalization, you have to believe that A will increase by more than B’s current value. You have to believe there are a huge number of people are are avoiding taking meth, heroin, PCP, and other ‘hard’ drugs solely because they’re illegal, and they would commit a huge number of crimes to replace all the crimes committed by the drug dealers, gangbangers, etc., all involved in the drug trade now.

          I find this implausible.

        • By the way, the comment above is intended as support of Totenglocke’s comment.

        • @CarlosT

          Not to mention all the tax dollars wasted on police / swat / prisons for arresting people for carrying a bag of weed or laying in their apartment shooting up heroin.

          Plus it’s been established that sending someone to jail for drugs only further drives them towards a life of crime, not help keep them from it.

        • Exactly, on both counts. And if we spend some of that money we spend on drug enforcement on directly mitigating the effects of addiction, we’d probably come out ahead.

          As a society we have to admit to ourselves that we’re going to be dealing with drug addiction one way or another. Dealing with it through law enforcement is the least efficient, most rights-destroying way we can possibly do it. Dealing with it through medical, mental, and social services would be much lower impact. It’s not a crazy idea. We’re already doing it with alcohol addiction. Alcoholics aren’t thrown in prison just for being alcoholics. They get their addictions dealt with through treatment centers, hospitals, mental health facilities, etc. Law enforcement only gets involved when other crimes are committed. Is it perfect? Hell, no. Is there a lot of room for improvement? Yeah. But it’s a lot better than it would be if the cops were arresting alcoholics just of being alcoholics.

      • So my state of Oregon (one of a few I think) has made sudafed prescription only to combat the scourge of meth. Its been six years and the data shows its not stopped the use of meth (its just imported from mexico more or made from other methods).

        Why do I lose my rights to cold medicine to stop meth production? I’ve done nothing wrong to begin with. The state has tried the make it more illegal route and its done mostly squat except make it cost me $35+ to buy one box of cold medicine (hint I dont bother and the “new coke” versions aren’t worth a damn). This is stuff I bought back in my not so wild college days ten years ago with no background check either, which is what the standard fed law requires now with name/ID/address getting input into a database and shared with local/fed gov by buying it from “behind the counter”.

        Booze is legal in most circumstances and yet people still die from it every year. Perhaps education is the best method instead of infringing on everyone’s rights to medicate or even get high. I say ban alcohol again, no skin off my nose, I don’t drink much at all and wouldn’t miss it (cept maybe in some cooking).

      • I can see legalizing a single-shot shotgun but I cannot fathom why you would advocate fore legalizing a device like an semi-auto rifle or other ‘dangerous’ weapons.
        /sarcasm

        It’s about freedom. The freedom to do as you please as long as you don’t infringe on the rights of others. If you decide to take a substance, it is your business until you infringe on the rights of others. Then personal responsibility kicks in and you pay the price for your infringements. We have a Republic, not a nation where pre-crime is a punishble crime. Our public education system really has failed us!

    • “We had far more heavily armed and dangerous criminals 80 years ago, yet we didn’t have stormtroopers running around murdering anyone who got in their way in the name of “helping people” back then.”

      Exactly.

      • Bonnie and Clyde where the criminals. They weren’t getting in the way and where murdered, they were the target.

  2. Well thought out points;however,there’s one giant hole in the premise that because the world has changed we need SWAT.Bad guys have always had more artillery than the police since the time of Al Capone;the difference between law enforcement of the 60s and 70s and the folks today calling SWAT is that the old school guys took care of business with what was in their holster.A well trained officer skilled in the use of his sidearm won’t need a SWAT unit to handle some bad guys with full auto hardware.The big difference between SWAT and the ordinary cop is training:so why not disband the militarized Special Weapons and Attitude Team and spend that money training EVERYONE to be great shots.As that Security Forces cop proved at Fairchild AFB in 1994,a standard issue pistol in cool hands will kill a bad guy just as dead as an MP5 or M4.

    “You are only outgunned if you MISS!”-Jeff Cooper

    • I’m sorry, but that’s silly. A handgun only has so much range, and in the big, flat parts of the country you can be seriously outranged. I have no problem with officers in rural areal having a semi-auto AR-15 or mini-14 in the trunk of their patrol vehicle – basically anything I can have, they should be able to have.

      Anyway, it’s not about the weapons, it’s about the tactics. As 2A defenders, we should all be able to agree that guns and kevlar aren’t evil, but some tactics are reckless and needlessly aggressive.

      • “I’m sorry, but that’s silly. A handgun only has so much range, and in the big, flat parts of the country you can be seriously outranged.”

        This statement is false.
        Andy Brown shot a disturbed man with a MAK-90 from a military verified distance of 70 yards. That’s not tacticool BS, but confirmed fact.

        -http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BTT/is_1_34/ai_n56222398/pg_2/?tag=content;col1
        Shooting Reconstruction

        “As he fired the shots that stopped the murders, Andy Brown perceived his opponent to be perhaps 30 yards away from him. At the same time, hard-focused on his front sight, he was aware that his human target seemed incongruously tiny.

        The investigating authority was the Spokane County, Washington Sheriff’s department. Their investigation showed conclusively that USAF Security Policeman Andrew Brown had been between 69 and 71 yards away from Dean Mellberg when Brown fired the fourth and final shot, stopping the mass murder. Investigators and newsmen alike split the difference and called it 70 yards.”

        This wasn’t done with an expertly handbuilt 1911 or some race gun, but a military issue Beretta 9mm loaded with military FMJ ball ammo that the SP *never shot before*. Those of you who served know those guns are far from bench queens.

        Bottom line, if our patrol officers are trained in being able to make shots like that you won’t need a SWAT team, statewide or anywhere else.

        • And if the harbor patrol officers were trained like Michael Phelps, they wouldn’t need boats.

          There’s a reason why the US military deployed the M-1 Carbine in WW II. Most people suck with a pistol at longer ranges, even fairly well trained ones. Of course there are exceptions, but a shoulder weapon is much easier to shoot accurately. If you’re concerned about the high power rifle cartridge, give them carbines chambered for pistol cartridges:

          http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2010/02/07/fbi-purchasing-40-sw-ar-15-carbines/

        • Wow. 70 yards. I’ve hit 80% plus in the Marine Corps with an M16 at 500 yards at Camp Pendleton.

          If you cannot accept the tactical reality that rifles have longer range than handguns, kindly don’t post.

        • @Anon, but wasnt the M1 Carbine a failure, because it couldnt penetrate winter clothing?

          @Accur81, In what legitimate situation is a LEO going to need to take a 500 yard shot? The military might have a need, but you certainly don’t.

        • @Matt

          The whole “.30 carbine can’t penetrate thick clothes” thing is an urban legend. The Box of Truth busted that one pretty well.

          If you don’t believe me, I’d be more than happy to let you put on as many layers of thick clothing as you want and stand 100 yards out and let me grab my M1 Carbine…. 🙂

  3. Anyone carrying out the idiotic “War On Drugs” deserves to be shot. That is what happens to people who violently attack peaceful entrepreneurs–the entrepreneurs prepare to defend themselves, and more violent people take over the trade in response to the added risk. The drug gangs wouldn’t exist without prohibition. Police and politicians have created this problem. Unfortunately, a lot of innocent people get hurt every day because of it. We have a real shooting war going on in Northern Mexico, and that is 100% the result of the stupid drug policy in the United States.

    Do yourself a favor and read Mark Thornton’s excellent book, The Economics of Prohibition. It is an eye opener.

      • I wouldn’t go so far as to say they deserve it, but they should expect it to be a possibility.

        As a police officer you have considerable discretion. A police chief or elected sheriff could create a policy for their department stating that their officers are not to enforce federal drug laws.

        But I haven’t heard of a single one that’s done that.

    • Nobody deserves anything. What happens to you is earned. Those carrying out the war on some durgs has earned everything that happens to them.

  4. Excellent article, with some very good ideas. I like the concept of reverting SWAT back to state control so as to have fewer, better trained SWAT operators. This would also prevent some of the overuse of SWAT we’re seeing, since local officials would actually need to negotiate for their services, rather than just order them out. Plus, you’d have state-level officials on the hot seat for screw ups, so they wouldn’t be willing to just send them out willy-nully.

  5. The overwhelming majority of cases were a SWAT team is used there seem to be no criminals with full auto guns and body armor though. And your average police officer seems to already have access to gear I’d consider SWAT worthy. Hell my somewhat sleepy town of 20k inhabitants has a SWAT unit with an APC and all the toys. I have no idea what for…

  6. So the local militarized police (ARs now replace shotguns for example) justifies a small army because, well, you never know what might happen. With great power comes greater responsibility and that means training, engagement rules, experienced military trained commanders, and liability insurance. The insurance is needed to cover costs when something goes wrong and the premiums paid will reflect the risks. Po-hunk towns will pay more, if another incident occurs where a wrongful death takes place another increase. Hire guys with military training and see a reduction.

    The only way to really get a grip on this is through wallets. When costs rise they take notice. And then maybe respect for life will follow if lack of respect cost money.

  7. I think consolidating SWAT teams at the state police level would certainly address a lot of the professionalism issues and improve oversight, but…

    Aren’t police agencies notoriously territorial? What are the chances that Sheriff Bob would call in the staties everytime he had a potentially dangerous offender to serve a warrant on? Especially when most don’t end up with any shots fired? And when it might mean someone asking if his department really needs M4s as patrol weapons when the SP handles all the tough stuff anyway?

    • Excellent: then we would have even fewer deployments of SWAT … and maybe they would only go out when some incredibly serious happened … like it should be!!!

      • Except then you have Sheriff Bob’s deputy go out to serve a warrant on Super Meth Man, who turns out to be able to both point his gun AND pull the trigger that day, and then you have to explain why you “took the SWAT team away”.

        The more basic problem is that we demand nothing ever go wrong. No accidental shootings, no wrong-door raids (it’s reasonable to ask for maximum effort to avoid mistakes, but you also have to accept they will still happen) etc. As annoying as the proliferation of SWAT is, it’s not hard to understand how it happened and why it persists.

        • That would be a failure on Sheriff Bob and the deputy’s part. Who says you have to arrest the dangerous meth head at home where he’s likely armed to the teeth? Or that they even have to arrest him in the first place? They could call in the feds. That’s not as exciting as kicking in doors and what not, but a bit of intelligence goes a long way.

          SWAT is almost wholly unnecessary.

          Give patrol officers rifle training, give them a rifle to put in their trunk or rack and clear guidelines on when they can use it.

  8. Let’s start small… let’s just start with one last confirmation of the address before they go in hard.

    Just like in Crimson Tide:
    “Alpha, Alpha, Bravo, Echo, Charlie, Zulu, Tango.”
    “Alpha, Alpha, Bravo, Echo, Charlie, Zulu, Tango.”
    Captain, message is authentic.”
    “I concur, sir.”

    Two guys, each one checking the other. Of course, that still wouldn’t fix the problem of them executing a no-knock warrant on an unsuspecting middle-class family because the informant gave the wrong address. Maybe some sort of “cooling off period,” during which they surveil the place for 24-48 hours before they bust in? I mean, is anyone actually checking these places out, or is the moment they bust in the door the first time anyone’s even looked up the driveway?

  9. Thing about running all the SWAT units to a few state controlled units is this: States like Texas have more room than a few teams can cover. Response times would be in the order of several hours. That idea just doesn’t work here. Should the police be militarized, not like we are now, but tactics and gear has to change with the times.

    • a quick glance around wikipedia shows at least 9 swat units in my metro area. The one of the local PD was not even listed, no that number is at the lower end. I really don’t think that many are necessary. at all.

    • Who cares if it takes them a couple hours to arrive. It isnt hard for regular cops to cordon off a area.

  10. Our city lost its SWAT team several years ago due to budget cuts. In 2011 the city negotiated with 2 neighboring cities to establish a regional SWAT team. That arrangement seems to be working pretty well.

    I don’t trust the state of CA to properly administer a SWAT program (like Feinstein, they think the entire state consists of big cities). County control would make more sense and make the use of the teams more responsive to the people actually being served than would state control.

  11. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again.

    Having trained guard/attack dogs is well and fine. But when they start biting your roommates and eating their shoes, you can’t just dismiss their concerns as the cost of security.

    I don’t find it very professional or mature but I don’t have a problem with SWAT guys getting all Tacticooled up. If I had access to the gear and training that they do you’d better believe I’d take advantage of it aswell. What I have a problem with is the apparent carte blanche they have in regards to kicking down anyones door, at any time, for any reason, for killing anyone and anything that makes them ‘feel threatened’. The mere suggestion of “qualified immunity” makes my fvcking blood boil. I don’t know about you but I was led to believe that NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.

    As far as I’m concerned, if a team knocks down the wrong door, their force and presence is not justified, it’s criminal forced entry. Kick down the wrong door and someone is not only losing their job but they’re facing civil/criminal charges. Wrong address raid? The city’s footing the bill and paying for any kind of stress therapy or PTSD treatment that I arbitrarily decide I need. Wrong address raid with the homeowner gets shot? Manslaughter. Wrong address raid and kill the family pet? Same deal. Wrong address raid and cop/s get killed? Tough sh!t. When supervisor and manager level cops start losing their jobs and facing criminal charges over crap like this, there will never be another raid. SWAT teams will stop serving search warrants and will instead be used for extreme situations like bank robberies and barricaded violent felons and hostage situations. Wich is, coincidently, what they were originally meant for.

    I agree with about 95% of this article. My biggest, and pretty much only, issue is the suggestion that every day low-life criminals have been replaced with rogue spec ops/terrorists straight out of a Michael Bay movie. Sure, they can get their hands on full autos (maybe) but it’s a butt load of money, effort, and risk to go through just to get a gun that you can’t hide, can’t shoot accurately, and will probably only use once before you toss. “Advanced body armor”? Gimme a break. I haven’t heard of someone other than an active shooter using body armor since that bank robbery in Cali. It does happen, but it’s an annomaly.

    I agree with training beat cops better. If the patrol guys had better training than qualifying a few times a year i.e. quarterly refreshers on solo house clearing, barrier shooting, shooting and moving, one handed shooting etc, SWATies wouldn’t be needed for the simple search and arrest warrants that occupies most of their time.

  12. i’m sorry, what is this drivel?? these “units” do not exist to serve the public good, or to help the public . it is to spend as much “war on drugs” money on equipment along with whatever funds they take from criminals. The fact that SO many pd departments have armored vehicles that can take rpg rounds and keep going is very alarming to me. its only a matter of time until they start driving around with TOW missiles on these apc’s to “protect the community” too. the line of thinking that “i know lets give gomer from podunk pd a select fire weapon because that will help protect the “community” is terrifying and pervasive in our domestic law enforcement community. yes, swat serves a “community” alright, the LEO’s out there.

  13. You cannot use the problems that stupid, illogical government policies have created to justify government use of excessive force.

  14. Like most govt enterprises SWATs tarted out small and “for the good of the people”, but eventually became an out of control entity unto itself. We don’t need SWAT teams or the war on drugs. The govt does. They really do.

    I was not present in WW2 Germany, but I’m willing to bet that the jackbooted thugs just on the local police forces in this country far outnumber the Brown Shirts following Hitler’s orders back then. Their tactics and operational pattern are starting to rival those of history. Where are we headed?

  15. Yet again, we become enamored with treating the symptoms. SWAT Teams, illegal immigration, open vs. concealed carry, national CC reciprocity…. the list goes on. These things are not the problem. Stop focusing on the symptoms and address the real cause… our national and states goverments’ War on Liberty! Just think of all the problems that would be solved if government ended prohibition, ended the wars, ended printing money out of thin air, ended sanctioned theft, ended it’s desire to control every aspect of you life.

    Stop defending the indefensible by proposing reforms. Address the real problem… governement itself!

  16. “The problem is that the world has changed . . .”
    No it hasnt. In the wild west, criminals used military grade rifles and pistols. And in midevil times. They had access to similar types of swords as the military used. Nothing has really changed.

    “…we see more instances of both domestic and foreign terrorism.”
    what? the only thing that has changed is that nearly anyone can be classified a terrorist nowadays. Shit, even after columbine I had a Cook County Assistant States Attorney request I be jailed INDEFINETLY because they thought I was going to blow up the school. I’m assuming school officals didnt think so because about a year later I was a student employee with a set of master keys and blueprints. 9-11 was carried out with box cutters, not APCs and fully automatic weapons.

    “These bad guys seem to have no problems procuring the latest weapons with which to do their worst, including full-automatic weapons. They also have access to advanced body armor.”
    That is extreamly rare, most bad guys here in Chicago have pocket pistols. Armor is rare, and even then it is generally only level 2A or 2, not 3A with level 4 plates.

    “And they’re not necessarily stupid or poorly trained.”
    How often do you see professionally trained bad guys. Especially with training recent enough to actually make a difference.

    “The local Police Chief lost his life attempting to serve a warrant on an offender with a drug and firearms arrest history.”
    How often does this actually happen compared to the number of warrants served?

    “Mistakes may have been made but it seems reasonably clear the situation required a more heavily armed force.”
    Or they could have cordoned off a area and waited him out. But they were lazy and cheap, wanted to get it over quickly, and so they wouldnt have to approve overtime.

    “Society needs some form of specially trained well-equipped police team to handle these dangerous situations.”
    I thought that was what the national guard was for.

    “The existence of SWAT teams is not the problem.”
    Yes it is.

    “The myriad of “mistakes” perpetrated by some members of SWAT teams should not be tolerated.”
    Their qualified immunity needs to be abolished.

    “In the case of a particularly egregious offense, termination of employment altogether or jail time should follow. Any SWAT action should be personally approved by senior police officials who know that their ass is on the line for mistakes.”
    What? Only egregious offenses? This sounds like it was written by a SWAT member. I wish I would only go to jail for egregious offenses, rather than for any offense. And those senior officals should be held liabile for the offeneses of their officers, similar to how a parent can be held liabile for offenses their children make.

    “…find themselves in the sort of position where a highly trained SWAT team might mean the difference between them living or dying, I’ll be damn glad if there’s such a team ready to help.”
    How often does that happen compared to how often they screw things up?

    “We all read about the mistakes made by SWAT teams, but we seem to never hear much about the situations where the right team with the right training saves the day.”
    Maybe because it rarely ever happens? Police departments have public relations people, they love to brag about what a great job they are doing to justify more funding, and news papers love to run stories about how cops save the day. The problem is it rarely ever happens.

    “We need some form of militarized police forces, we just need to do a better job figuring out how to gain the benefits without the drawbacks.”
    No we don’t, thats why there is a national guard. We are not Mexico with bodies hanging from overpasses.

    • matt, I totally agree. What Jim Barrett is missing is that SWAT’s mission is not to protect and serve innocent civilians. SWAT’s mission is to kill anything on two or four legs who they suspect might possibly, maybe, potentially mess with cops. To me, there’s little or no difference between SWAT and a South American “Death Squad.” Disband them all, now.

      • SWAT’s mission is to kill anything on two or four legs who they suspect might possibly, maybe, potentially mess with cops.

        Ah-ha! We’ve found SWAT’s weakness – snakes and fish! They’re completely unprepared for a no-legged creature attack!

        🙂 Sorry, just spotted an opportunity to have some fun with the post instead of the miserable reality.

  17. The issue I have with SWAT is that once established, they seek to self-perpetuate and increase their influence, which means increasing their frequency of use. I know a fair few SWAT officers through my uncle, who used to be on a couple different squads, and most of them are great guys. That doesn’t change the fact that their organization is a dangerous ratchet. It only scales up, toward more violent confrontation with the citizenry. And the “drug dealers are highly trained machine-gun users” canard is pretty silly, except along the Mexican border.

  18. I support the existence of SWAT Teams. I also support officers (SWAT or regular cops) being held accountable for excess or irresponsible use of force and gross mistakes which the police are often not held too.

    I recognize there are now more heavily armed and dangerous crazies than ever and I also recognize bad and excessive laws and micro-management leads to more eventual use of SWAT and bigger costly prisons.

    “The problem is that the world has changed . . .”

    And long-term, the more things change with the world the more they stay the same. We’re going full-circle back to a once-free prosperous people being ruled over by political elites with most of the nation’s wealth owned by the very few.

  19. Training up all SWAT teams to HRT standards isn’t possible. The HRT men can do helicopter and boat insertions. That kind of stuff is very expensive and the skills used in them are perishable. Even if the town could pay for the initial training, the cost of continuous refreshing of skills will be too much for most to towns/cities to pay for.

    What SWAT teams need to do is learn from the HRT’s Critical Incident Response Group. The FBI created the group after the incidents at Waco and Ruby Ridge. Since then, they have made a more efficient way to disseminate information amongst all the responders to a crisis. If SWAT teams can learn to communicate and double check information, it would stop almost all of the mishaps that we read about here on TTAG.

  20. People;WE DON’T NEED SWAT TEAMS.

    AT.

    ALL.

    Lets stop discussing symptoms and look at the real problem. Places with a lot of violent criminals like LA, Chicago, and New York have something in common-a disarmed population.

    See, when everyone around has guns crooks can’t call the shots. Offenders violent enough to quarter themselves in a home and shoot cops are violent enough to pick a gunfight with the wrong guy and end up dead themselves. If there’s a “high risk” warrant that needs to be served, instead of walking up to the bad guy’s hideout why not stake the place out and nail the guy in transit;that way if stuff goes bad its a better situation for the police.

    Much like so many things today, we think we need SWAT…when this nation’s police got along for decades just fine taking down evil crooks using old fashioned marksmanship and a .38 special revolver.

  21. Another pro-State yawner by Jim Barrett.

    “We need some form of militarized police forces[…]”

    Credibility: Lost

    • +1 james. this article states that “some form” of militarized cops are “needed” but he then goes on to state “but we seem to never hear much about the situations where the right team with the right training saves the day” hurray for the patriot act!

      i wonder if the author has any such examples to back up this statement?

      swat does no exist to benefit ANY private citizen, nor the public. if anything serving on the goon squad decreases the level of trust that leo’s have with the public, this is especially true when they BREAK INTO THE WRONG HOUSE FOR EXAMPLE. these people have zero accountability for their actions hurt innocents, (including man’s best friend), damaged property, etc.

      i am big fan of TTAG, but this article reads like a LEO BJ fest with little critical thinking involved.

  22. What typically gets people killed are police cowboys SWAT or otherwise) who decide to serve search warrants when people are present. I can be pretty confident that nobody is going to be shooting at the cops when the house is empty. But no, they commonly decide that they want to crash through the door when people are sleeping inside to serve a search warrant. Oddly enough people woken up by someone kicking in their door tend to get kind of nervous. And the police cowboys then don’t bother to identify themselves and the fight starts. This is what happened in southern Arizona and Utah.

    The fact that a large proportion of the SWAT teams are a bunch of guys who never actually do any training as a team and are lead by buffoons like John “Jack” Solomon doesn’t help.
    http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/What-led-to-deadly-Easton-raid-3587812.php#page-1

    • @ kevin

      wow this is a great example of what we are talking about here.

      power tripping cop with vendetta and chip on shoulder?

      check

      withholding of key information to judge, to ensure the raid is authorized?

      check

      criminal scum to provide “evidence”?

      check

      use of flash bangs with no real experience?

      check

      officer of the year award for shooting an unarmed man in the house?

      check

  23. If anyone wants to see why SWAT teams should not be around, watch Detroit SWAT on Hulu (for free). You’ll see they routinely destroy homes with a battering ram mounted to a APC, set numerous homes on fire with 40mm tear gas grenades, etc. And that show is edited like COPS, to showcase the police in the best possible light. The most they ever discover is a single AK47, typically only drugs and a pocket pistol, if anything.

    • In Detroit, that’s called urban renewal.

      Haven’t you heard that the plan is destroys large chunks of the city which are largely unoccupied, and to concentrate the survivors and city services in designated enclaves?

      Those cops are just trying to help out.

  24. Multiple Swat teams and the state police tactical squade complete with 2 helo’s were called on when someone thought they saw a gun in a backpack at the Burlington MA mall. The HUGE mall was quickly evacuated traffic tied up for hours and the person of intrest was found with an umbrella. I wonder how close he came to being taken out with a .50 cal. A cop couldn’t have just walked up to the guy and said, hey what do you have there? The politicos all said what a wonderful job everyone did. HOPLOPHOBIA and NO BALLS!!

    • The sad part about this is that people are such idiots they can’t tell the difference between an umbrella handle and a gun barrel.
      If they thought this guy had a gun in his backpack they should have intercepted him while his gun was not in easy reach. Instead they
      called the police and in the interim this guy could have killed a dozen people IF he was actually armed.

  25. you know, for all this talk of “the world has changed,” bad guys were able to acquire fully-automatic weapons and body armor (presumably advanced for the time) in the 1930s, and we still managed to arrest, convict and or out-shoot them despite the fact that we lacked teams of high-speed guys dressed like commandos driving around in their fancy armored cars.

    actually, though, the world HAS changed: at the time, it was much less likely a police officer would claim he had no choice but to shoot your dog.

    • A big part of the problem is “Federal funds” being given to these states and cities for military style law enforcement. The Feds essentially bribe the states with this money, and encourage them to create these military style LEO units. Another issue (and this will be controversial) is that I don’t think combat veterans should end up on domestic police departments. They are trained to KILL on the battlefield. Their training, mindset, and skills are all geared toward one thing, destroy the enemy. Do we really want these guys patrolling our streets, and interacting with ordinary civilians?

  26. There’s a very simple way to cure this, and other excesses perpetrated by law enforcement officers:

    When cops screw up and raid the wrong apartment/house/business/etc, they are operating without a warrant and authority. The concept of sovereign immunity from civil litigation should apply only when the LEO’s are following ALL of the statutes and case law, particularly the requirements of having a warrant for the person and/or address they are seeking/raiding.

    So, let’s take an example “ripped from the headlines:” SWAT team does a no-knock on the wrong address, because the recruiting standards for law enforcement recently seem to emphasize steroid consumption over reading comprehension. When a SWAT team decides in a fit of ‘roid rage that they “don’t need no steekin’ warrants,” they are acting illegally and should be charged under the full force of the law, which could include one or more of: trespassing, breaking & entering, felonious assault illegal detention, oppression under color of law, destruction of private property, malicious mischief and a host of other charges that vary from state to state.

    They also can then be held liable for civil damages.

    In both cases (criminal and civil charges), the SWAT team in question should NOT be defended with public monies or attorneys. They should have to retain their own lawyers at their own expense, because the taxpayers do NOT authorize law enforcement officers to break the law. They’re authorized to enforce the law, which does not mean breaking the law at their own discretion.

    Any damages and compensation due the victims of illegal actions by LEO’s should also, therefore, be paid by the criminal LEO’s, not the taxpayers.

    Rather quickly, LEO’s would learn to get it right or find some other job.

    Further, it should follow that if LEO’s are stripped of sovereign immunity for prosecution/litigation after their illegal actions that law-abiding citizens who are assaulted and oppressed under color of law by LEO’s are therefore able to respond with commensurate force in response for their own defense, for they are defending themselves against illegal assault.

  27. Times have changed, but not the people. Our government size has substantially increased and has signed legislation trampling on the bill of rights. Americans are neo-serfs, intended to be brainless, uneducated, indoctrinated consumers with a “if im not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t worry about a thing” mindset.

    I swear that statists routinely masturbate to 1984, being inspired by fantasies of trampling on their citizens and being worshipped at their holy alters.

    Law enforcement, like them military and elected representatives, exist to serve the public and protect american citizens, not the other way around.

    “those that give up essential liberty to obtain little or no temporary safety deserve neither” -Benjamin Franklin

  28. Congratulations Mr. Barrett. I received the very first (I think) and prestigious TTAG award last year for my ‘In defense of SWAT’ post. I’m still a big supporter of the LE/SWAT community.

  29. An incident on my street a few years ago..a guy in his wife ( both big time drinkers) had one of their weekly arguements. He shoots her in the ass with a bb pistol. She leaves the house, calls the police and all hell breaks loose. You would think this guy had a turret with a coupla mini guns mounted on his roof. Our locol jokers have an armored van, several M4s/16s and at least one sub gun. Some sorta Steyr. Luckily they must not really know how to use any of that stuff because they called in a state police twat team. Thats when the real entertainment began! A truck with a sniper tower (like a man lift) parks across the street and up goes the platform..would have been at least a 30 yard shot. Any number of tacticooly outfitted commandos where invading peoples yards to set up interlocking fields of fire and forward air control positions. I was watching from my attic window half expecting them to bust out E-tools to dig fighting holes. This little drama went on for about 2 hours with no response from the guy in the house, probably because he was passed out. Not sure what woke him up but he ended up walking out of the house and was of course tackled and cuffed. Then I watched the cops do something akin to what I think the ancient Roman army called a testudo ( somethin like that) they formed up in a tight group, with ballistic shields overlapped, and half step marched up to the front door. The thing I thought odd was that the two in front had pistols, and each guy behind them had the barrel of their M4 resting on the shoulder of the guy in front of them. Anybody else ever see that? Seems like a great way to cause massive hearing loss at a minimum or to maybe I dunno, KILL the guy in front of you. Figured it was some sorta show for the public or something. Actually the whole thing probably was because I’m sure his wife told them he was the only one in the house. Guess theres no point in having toys if you dont play with them.

  30. When they kick down your door, suppose they put a few rounds in your head? How can you support this type of jack booted thuggery and have a clean conscience? My guess is you are part of the same ilk that killed the marine in Az. This is war on the people and you are behind it. What sort of a piece of trash does that make you, Mr. Barrett? Perhaps you are a psychopath, too.

  31. look, the whole problem with America’s paramilitary groups is, quite frankly, 9 times out of ten ,their standard policy is to charge in all kill anyone they see, without bothering to check if they are at the right house. i mean, look at the news form over in america! there’s cases of teams charging into houses and dumping multiple SMG clips into elderly pensioners sitting in armchairs, officers breaking down doors and shooting toddlers in the face, even blatantly murdering a retired veteran for having the audacity to NOT want medical care (from what i remember, they repeatedly Tazed him and shot him in the midsection with a SHOTGUN, causing fatal internal injuries. im going to be blunt. the american law enforcement system is fucked up beyond all repair. WE don’t have this sort of thing going on down here, we dont have gun-stores on every third street, and our country is NOT a lawless wasteland, because OUR police focus more on intercepting shipments of ILLEGAL guns then murdering someone cause they got an anonymous tip that someone saw them “smoknz teh weedez honests officar!”

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