The action is on the perimeter
Any experienced team leader will tell you that the prevailing complaint from one team member or another is, “Why do I always end up on the perimeter?” Somehow it’s become akin to being put into right field. The thing is, the ball occasionally gets hit to right field.
Every member of your SWAT team wants to go through the door — it’s in their nature. But one of the basic goals of any SWAT action is to contain the problem. Tactical operators might think they’re being left out of the action when they are assigned to the perimeter, but this thinking underestimates the importance of the perimeter.
Whether the call out is for a standoff with a barricaded gunman, a robbery in progress, a high risk arrest, or a search warrant, there will be a need for a perimeter. The perimeter needs to be secured prior to the entry being made and should be done in such a matter so as not to tip the hand of the police. It is critical that members securing the perimeter make their approach and arrival unheard and unseen. They must be mentally and physically prepared to deal with the same threats that the entry team might face.
What can go wrong on the perimeter?
Even if all these things fall into place, if the perimeter is not secure then the bad guy, who has prepared an escape hole, is out and gone without even blowing a kiss goodbye. Incidentally, that is the best-case scenario on the list of things that could possibly go wrong.
The importance of the perimeter cannot be understated. When SWAT arrives, criminals have a tendency to feel that the vise has closed and escape is useless. With flight no longer an option they will have to choose posture, fight, or submit as the remaining confrontational options. The majority of the time criminals submit and that is due in part to the tight and instantaneously formed perimeters that are the trademark of modern day SWAT Teams.
What skills are needed to handle the perimeter?
Officers assigned to the perimeter will have to know how and when to use their firearms; many times SWAT is called because the suspect has said, “I’ll not go back to prison. They will not take me alive.” For some that is just macho talk but for others, that is a prediction. What people call “suicide by cop” could be “homicide of a cop” if the officers manning the perimeter are unable to respond, ill prepared to respond, or just not paying attention. You cannot fully understand the mind of a person who is pointing a firearm at you and telling you he is going to kill you. You must be prepared to shoot to stop the imminent deadly threat. This happens frequently around the country on the perimeters of SWAT calls.
Officers assigned to the perimeter should have the ability and the authority to begin negotiations, because frequently suspects initiate contact with the police by just walking outside with a gun to their heads, or to a hostage’s head. The first people with any opportunity to have a positive impact on what is transpiring will be the personnel on the perimeter.
The perimeter should also provide security at the scene to prevent a drive-by shooting directed at police or possible witnesses and informants at the scene.
Depending on the location of the event, it may become necessary to perform crowd control on a perimeter. The SWAT response may delight the neighborhood in some cases and in others it may enrage a neighborhood. Crowds in both cases can create unique challenges that personnel on the perimeter will have to handle.
Nearly every tactical plan should include a marked squad with pursuit capability. This is an often-overlooked aspect of tactical plans. Frequently the target suspect is not at the residence, especially during entries to serve search warrants. While the residence is being searched, the suspect may return home only to flee when they see the police. You don’t want to be left on foot with no vehicles nearby, yelling in a frustrated voice over your radio, “Somebody, stop that car!”
With a marked unit standing by on the perimeter, this common problem can be easily remedied.
The action is on the perimeter
Just say this: “We need someone we can count on there. The action is on the perimeter!”
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