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Outgunned: When First Responders Need Help They Call SWAT, But Who Can SWAT Call?

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 27 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2003 Pages: 46-48,50,51
David Griffith
Date Published
March 2003
5 pages
This article discusses how SWAT teams can assess their vulnerabilities and improve their preparation for those prepared to do battle against them.
Several years ago in St. Mary's County, MD, the SWAT team of the sheriff's department went to the home of a man who had fired on police officers and then barricaded himself in his home. The subject killed himself without a gunfight with the SWAT team, and the team was thankful for that when they entered his home and found an arsenal that had the potential to inflict serious harm on SWAT team members. This included a variety of rifle types, armor-piercing ammo, loaded mags, and speed loaders. The gunman had been in a fortified position and his rifles and ammo neutralized the value of the officers' body armor. In effect, the gunman was better equipped with firearms than the SWAT team. Following this incident, the sheriff's department purchased an armored vehicle. One of the most important lessons a SWAT commander can learn from training and real-life experience is when to re-evaluate a situation and ask for help in the face of a foe who can inflect serious harm. When a SWAT team needs help, the best place to turn is to another area team that has more equipment and capabilities, or just additional officers. To prepare for such an eventuality, area teams should train together and agree to help one another long before an incident occurs that requires joint efforts. The most important quality of a SWAT commander is his/her ability to assess the strengths of opponents compared with those of the SWAT team and then determine whether additional resources are needed before placing the team in harm's way.