What draws us to SWAT?
“Police Search Warrant Get Down! Down! Down! Down! Down!”
Everyone who has shouted those words in the real word knows about the adrenaline that courses through your veins like a clenched muscle on an Olympic athlete. When asked why a police officer would be drawn to such intensity it is as difficult to explain as why some would order their chicken wings hot and others would ask for them mild.
As the team moves through the apartment the suspect is found sleeping on the bed in the back bedroom. He is ordered to show his hands. The naked female next to him bounces up and then down immediately. The only one of her attributes noticed by team members are her hands. She complies. The suspect sleeps on in what is assumed to be a feigned sleep so he is ordered again to show his hands. He appears to sleep on.
The touch pad on an HK MP5 is squeezed and the beam of light pierces into the sleeping felon’s eyes causing him to squint and cover his face with both of his hands. They are empty. He opens his eyes and his eye lids wage war with the incredible brightness, naked as a newborn with none of its innocence. He then sees what has just awakened him from his dreams. A SWAT Team. He is frozen in sheer and momentary terror and then he is handcuffed.
The suspect later explains, “I was sleeping so sound and then I had a nightmare that a SWAT Team was kicking in my door and arresting me. When I woke up, there you were.”
The Team Leader thought, “We didn’t just enter his apartment, we entered his dreams. We were a bad guy’s nightmare. Cool.” After some further introspection the Team Leader wonders, “I wonder if we need a warrant to enter a guy’s dreams.”
What draws us to SWAT?
The silence in the transport van is deafening, as the target approaches the house. The arrest team awaits two blocks from the target house waiting for the command to move and instead comes, “Stand by. It’s not the target.” There is a collective sigh. A release of the tension on the coiled spring that is an arrest team, and then it comes: “squeeeeek.” The sound of the gaseous digestive aftermath of a Taco Bell Gordido. Everyone in the van laughs. Why it is funny to grown men is a phenomenon that Socrates probably pondered, but it is…… funny. The shared laugh cuts through tension in the van as effectively as the former Gordido cuts through the oxygen. It is a laugh the team will talk about for years.
What draws us to SWAT? Two suspects faced with the combat options of Flight, Fight, Posture and Submit, choose flight. For a time they are running side by side and they are pursued by the two SWAT operators that were assigned to that portion of the perimeter.
After about one block the two separate like two Blue Angels flying in formation. Without a word one operator takes the one cutting left and his partner takes the suspect running right. One of the operators notes his suspect shoves his hand into the right pocket of his drooping drawers. The operator readies his firearms waiting to see what the hand will bring out of the pocket. The hand appears and the suspect tosses his product into some bushes as he rounds the corner of a house. “Pick that up later,” thinks the operator.
The second operator, now about two blocks away, faces the same concern as his suspects is tugging at something in his pocket. It’s coming out with great difficulty and the SWAT Operator also readies his firearm, expecting the item to be a weapon. This operator plans to “Shoot him back first,” if it is a firearm as he suspects. The suspect tosses a stolen iPod and head phones into some bushes as he rounds the corner of a house. “Pick that up later,” thinks the operator.
The two tactical operators are now four blocks away from each other as they get the angle on the suspects and take them to the ground on the unforgiving asphalt of an alley. They handcuff their panting prey and then “step on each other” over the radio as they call in their arrests. They would playfully argue about who caught their man first.
What draws us to SWAT? These are true stories that have been repeated over and over in jurisdictions all over the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia... the world. They are some of the simple and yet engaging stories of a SWAT Team Tactical Operator.
If you ask anyone who ever joined a special unit, whether that unit was the Army’s Green Beret, the Air Force’s Thunderbird’s, the Navy’s SEALS, or the Marines’... um, Marines, they will tell you: “I wanted to be part of an elite team. I wanted to be one of the best.”
That is what draws us to SWAT. What keeps a person in SWAT is the camaraderie of belonging to a team in the real sense of the word. The types of calls they handle are the most challenging and SWAT Team members usually like challenges. Team members like counting on their partners and their teammates are almost always some of the most able personnel on every department. The training is top notch and ongoing and SWAT members as a rule love to train and train with intensity.
There is no doubt about the fact since SWAT’s inception, teams all over the nation have taken on the most difficult challenges in law enforcement and they have excelled. In most agencies they are highly skilled, highly motivated purveyors of peace, who quite often prevent violence with their presence, inspire submission with their ready patience and effectively end the violence that they could not prevent. I like to call SWAT Modern Blue Knights in Black Armor. I feel it’s accurate.
Looking ahead: SWAT on PoliceOne
PoliceOne has asked me to write articles for SWAT Officers by a (retired) SWAT Officer, and I’m honored by their request and will endeavor to both inform and entertain. We’re adding a few other SWAT writers too, but I don’t want to be the person to break that news—rest assured that we’re going to have some outstanding SWAT articles in 2009. If there are topics you’d like me to address, please send me an email or send a note to PoliceOne editor Doug Wyllie.
“Lt. Dan” Marcou