POLICE Magazine

AUG 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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POLICEMAG.COM 29 at a domestic by a rifle-wielding sus- pect. e suspect reportedly prevent- ed first responders from reaching the critically wounded deputy for as much as 45 minutes until an armored rescue vehicle arrived on the scene. MONEY CRUNCH SWAT critics also argue that many agencies would be better off spending their money on patrol officers rather than training and equipping specialty teams. at argument is really easy to answer because only about 10% of law enforce- ment tactical teams nationwide are full- time units. Most SWAT officers are work- ing other duties. Even on some agencies that have full-time teams, some officers are being assigned to patrol. What usually gets cut when officers work other duties as well as SWAT is training time. "Training is immensely expensive in law enforcement because we pay the student to take the training, we pay the instructor that teaches them, and we pay their replacements while they are training," says Heal. Administrators facing budget pres- sure are more likely to pull SWAT train- ing money if they do not understand how it is being spent, says McLaughlin. "We have to do a better job of educat- ing them. I recommend taking them through some training," he says. DEFINING THE MISSION While most county or city officials and even some police critics believe SWAT has a role in contemporary police oper- ations, they disagree on what that role should be. And often it is that disagree- ment that leads to calls to cut funding for the teams or restrict their use to only the most critical incidents. e SWAT concept was developed in the 1960s in response to sniper attacks such as the University of Texas Tower Shooting and the rise of political vio- lence where heavily armed militants shot it out with police. From the begin- ning, SWAT's missions have included hostage incidents, barricaded suspects that pose a danger to the public, high- risk warrant service, and counter-snip- er operations. Heal says these are still the primary missions for SWAT but there have been additional duties added over the years. He adds that SWAT missions should al- ways be something that patrol officers are not best suited to handle. "I used this definition in our strategic plan while commanding the LASD's SEB: 'e mission of the Special Enforcement Bureau is implied in our name, that is resolving those situations that are so extraordinarily hazardous, complex, or unusual that conventional methods are inadequate.'" Such a definition is flexible enough to account for new threats such as inter- national terrorism after 9/11. But it can leave a lot to interpretation and that's why critics say SWAT has become a hammer that law enforcement is swing- ing at too many nails. Cries of overuse are a common concern from civil liber-

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