I need to be honest. I still hear way too much reference to speed, surprise and violence of action in police SWAT warrant service training. I can give you at least 5 tactical concepts and principles that negate this antiquated philosophy and make it obsolete.
I will give you one easy example of how impossible it is to beat a suspect to their gun. How many of you sleep with a firearm within reach? How many of you plan how to access the guns in your house in an emergency? If you do this, why couldn’t a suspect who lives with the fear of drug rips and police showing up, do the same?
We beat criminals because we work smarter, not faster. 2019 and 2020 saw two very high-profile tragedies in police warrant service. The first was the 2019 Pecan Park warrant service in Houston, TX where 4 officers were shot, and the two suspects were killed. The second, which everyone knows of by now, was the Breonna Taylor killing in Louisville, Ky. Objectively, both warrants are examples of both poor planning, decision making, and tactics.
The no-knock exception is used in the belief it helps police beat the suspect to weapons and/or evidence destruction. We must move away from this mentality. This mentality equates to running a race against a person except you don’t know the layout nor the distance of the course. It does not serve us anymore. There are too many other options we have in police SWAT to effectively and safely secure a location for the collection of evidence or apprehend a high-risk fugitive.
I want to give you 3 options that will make your warrant services safer, and still be successful. I used these tactics for 15 years and over 500 warrants. They kept me out of multiple potential shootings, where the suspect was armed at or before we made our announcements. I say “me” because I was a point operator/scout for over a decade. I was almost always first at the entry point.
Take Down Away
This method works well for suspects who are well armed, or if there may typically be family of the suspect at the residence. In coordination with the warrant, a traffic stop can be performed on the main target or suspect by a uniformed officer in a marked patrol car. Use a backing vehicle with SWAT operators who can assist as needed. Once the patrol officer is finished, a detective or the SWAT operators can inform the suspect/target of the impending warrant and debrief them. If keys are needed, they can be had. If additional person concerns exist, they can be discovered. Probable cause for the stop is necessary too.
This first low-key method would be for a search warrant where the suspect may not be automatically arrested. The suspect is less likely to go barricade. They are less likely to produce a long gun, and are more confined, unless they choose to flee in the car. Depending on PC, the choice may be to let them go. At least you know they are not in the house. For an arrest warrant, you will probably coordinate a pinch, or some other type of vehicle take down.
Contain and Call Out
This method is growing in popularity with some teams using it exclusively, followed by a covert clear using robots and K9s. In my career we did a number of contain and call outs, but we performed the clear using warrant service movement, a slow walk with verbalization. I don’t see any harm with going even slower. The goal is secure the location, not get in a gun fight. If you also consuming the structure from the outside, you have already dominated areas of concern, bathroom and bedrooms by soft or hard porting windows.
One good contingency using this method is if the suspect is resistive or shoots at the team, the team is outside, and barricade operations can begin immediately. Much like a suspect will resist on first touch of handcuffing, most suspects will aggressively resist warrant services at their first indicated presence. Knock, breach, verbal, etc. This reaction is understandable because of the sudden shock of the loud, aggressive effort to enter the house.
Breach and Hold
If you just need to break down doors, this is going to be your best chance. This method begins with the prescribed knock and announcement then a breach, if the suspect does not answer the door. The team approaches the door and once the knock and announce requirement is met, they will breach…and hold at the entry point.
Here, the team will essentially perform a short contain and call out, waiting to see if the occupants move to the team, or run away. This gives a moment for the situation to equalize. The team can acclimate to the interior of the residence, while anyone inside know realizes the police are coming in. But, by not running in, we may be unpredictable to the suspect. We are affecting their OODA loop. The clearance movement would then be mission-based high risk warrant service movement, a slow walk with verbalization.
These three methods of warrant service are intended to do a few things. They take the suspect out of their comfort zone. Whether its contacting them away from their house, standing outside, or opening the door and waiting for them, the suspect has probably not thought about these actions coming from the police. Based on their frame of reference, television and movies, they may think we will rush in quickly. Now we have done something they had no plan for. We disrupt their OODA loop and any plan they may have had. Confusion creates “paralysis”.
Also, concerning the OODA loop, we give the suspect more time to process we are not criminals doing a drug rip, but are the police performing a legal action. And we are a SWAT team with many more resources than they have. Most suspects will shoot at police when they think they have an opportunity to win or escape. By a show of force, we can quickly convince the suspect today is not the day.
We beat suspects by working smarter. We have updated resources, decision-making, and tactics that work for our environment, satisfy our goals, and fulfill our roles. We work among our neighbors, family, and community. Our goal is to create a safe and trusted public safety model. Our role is that of guardian.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please email me.
Train smart, stay safe, #bebetter