POLICE Magazine

AUG 2018

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PoliceMag.com 35 nearly impossible. Still, some 10-officer departments try to field tactical teams with as few as five officers. Which is not optimal. In April the NTOA issued its latest standards for SWAT op- erations. e 48-page "Tactical Response and Operations Stan- dard for Law Enforcement Agencies" explains what constitutes a SWAT team, what missions it can undertake, and how it should be organized. Specifically, the NTOA standard says there are essentially two levels of SWAT teams. A Tier 1 team consists of 26 members—a team commander, 3 team leaders, 4 snipers, and 18 operators. A Tier 2 team consists of 19 members—a team commander, 2 team leaders, 4 snipers, and 12 operators. Below what NTOA consid- ers a true SWAT team is a "Tactical Response Team." According to NTOA a Tactical Response Team consists of 15 members—a team commander, 2 team leaders, and 12 operators. Given these standards, the vast majority of law enforcement agencies in the United States could not field a Tactical Response Team much less a SWAT team. And the NTOA knows it. "We strongly encourage agencies lacking enough qualified officers to form a SWAT unit on their own to team up with other agencies," Eells says. "Agencies need to form multi-jurisdictional teams in- stead of trying to go it alone. Not many agencies can do it alone and do it well." TRAINING THE TEAM O ne of the primary areas of SWAT operations that needs improvement is training. A lot of people, even inside law enforcement, believe that SWAT is given all the training time it wants. Eells, who served on the Colorado Springs SWAT team, says that's just not so. As they are in all areas of law enforcement, training time and training resources are precious for SWAT teams, especially so-called part-time teams. Eells says it's important that teams dedicate their training time to maintenance of the critical and specific skills to execute the missions they most commonly get assigned. "If most of your incidents are hostage rescues, then your training should be hostage rescue oriented. If 90% of the missions you execute are warrant service, then that's how you should be training." Gallegos, who trains teams through his company Tactical Mission Consulting, also cautions teams against trying to do too much in one training session. "If you only have a few hours for training, you are better off dedicating that time to an aspect of your operations," he says. "ink quality, not quantity." Eells is particularly outspoken about training time that's squandered on flashy and specialized activities that the team will likely never perform in the field. "If you're in a team that doesn't have an aerial support unit, then practicing rappelling out of a helicopter might not be the best use of your time," he says. TRAINING COMMANDERS I t's quite common for the actual commander of a SWAT team to be a lieutenant or captain with no SWAT experience. is is a result of the way officers with ambitions of becoming chiefs or high-ranking brass tend to climb the ladder from assignment to assignment. SWAT command is commonly one of the rungs on that ladder. e problem with this aspect of law enforcement culture is that it's not unusual for the SWAT commander to be unaware of the actual capabilities of the team. Sometimes this can lead to di- saster, as a commander can come up with a plan that is unwork- able or, worse, dangerous for the team members and perhaps the people they are trying to rescue or protect. Law enforcement culture and the way lieutenants and cap- tains make their bones by commanding SWAT units when they are not SWAT trained is unlikely to change. So the most practi- cal solution to this issue is to provide SWAT commanders with special training. at is the purpose of a new NTOA program. NTOA Academy's AT Operations PHOTOS: FRANKLIN RAU

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