POLICE Magazine

AUG 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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28 POLICE AUGUST 2019 SWAT was developed to be the spe- cial forces units of law enforcement. Like the Green Berets or the SEALs, SWAT officers receive special training, are provided special tools, and they are deployed on special missions. And that rubs some people the wrong way, mak- ing SWAT a target for citizen activism and litigation. ese critics can be very vocal so it's likely that more than one law enforcement commander has been asked by a city or county executive if having a SWAT team isn't an expensive luxury that is no longer needed. e question of "Do you still need SWAT?" may be especially on that ex- ecutive's mind after he or she has been presented with a police or sheriff's bud- get that includes rifles, helmets, hard armor, and other special threat protec- tion for the patrol units. e answer from some of the nation's leading tactical law enforcement ex- perts is that SWAT is still an essential element of police response to extraor- dinary incidents. "ere are always go- ing to be times when regularly trained officers can't handle the situation," says Robert McLaughlin, president of the North Carolina Tactical Officers Asso- ciation. e training is the special aspect of the SWAT concept that the critics who fixate on equipment, weapons, and gear don't see, says Sid Heal, retired commander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Enforce- ment Bureau and current executive di- rector of the California Tactical Officers Association. And the training, according to Heal, is the most important aspect of SWAT. "e original SWAT teams used conventional police weapons, es- pecially shotguns and rifles," Heal says. "It has always been the advanced training that made SWAT an effective and efficient unit for handling the most complex, dangerous, and confusing situations." or Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, agrees. "SWAT teams have the training that the first responder has tenfold," he says. "I think it's good to equip and pre- pare first responders for the increasing violence and extremism that we see. But we still need to be able to bring in a SWAT team to resolve many critical incidents." Despite the pressure from civil liber- tarians and police critics to reduce "mil- itarized policing," none of the tactical officer association executives contacted for this article said they have heard of SWAT teams being disbanded because agencies have supplied tactical equip- ment to patrol officers. McLaughlin, who retired from the Durham (NC) Po- lice Department as a lieutenant, sums up the reason why: "Shutting down a team is politically risky. I don't think any chief or sheriff wants to be the one who shut down a team and then have an incident happen where the team is needed," he says. Teams may not be shutting down, but they are being stripped of vital tools fol- lowing citizen complaints. And that can cost lives, according to Heal. "e intense scrutiny and public con- demnation by agitators and militants who have little or no understanding of the dangers and complexities involved has resulted in naïve police executives removing equipment, especially ar- mored vehicles," Heal says. He points to the recent killing of Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Tara O'Sullivan as the kind of tragedy that can occur when tactical units do not have ready access to armored rescue vehicles. In that inci- dent, Deputy O'Sullivan was ambushed DEPENDABLE STRENGTH FROM A GLOVE YOU CAN TRUST. REQUEST YOUR FREE SAMPLE TODAY: P O W D E R F R E E B L A C K N I T R I L E M E D I C A L E X A M I N A T I O N G L O V E S • STRONG & DURABLE • EXTRA-LONG BEADED CUFF • 8 MIL FINGER THICKNESS Visit www.maxill.com/elite or call 1-800-268-8633 ext. 260 PHOTO: FR ANKLIN R AU/HT TPS://FSR AU.SMUGMUG.COM ANSWERING SWAT CRITICS WE STILL NEED TO BE ABLE TO BRING IN A SWAT TEAM TO RESOLVE MANY CRITICAL INCIDENTS. —THOR EELLS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NTOA

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