Bridging the gap between SWAT and patrol

The Advanced Response Patrol Officer Program provides patrol cops with enhanced training, gear and skills that will allow a more effective response to serious tactical situations


The 2018 SHOT Show Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) was a hotbed of learning, and one of the most interesting presentations came from Chris Periatt, representing the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), on the subject of the Advanced Response Patrol Officer (ARPO) program.

The ARPO program has been on ongoing NTOA project. The genesis behind the program was the Tactical Patrol Officer (TPO) concept pioneered by Jeff Chudwin and the Illinois Tactical Officers Association (ITOA). The TPO concept was adopted by agencies in several states, and Periatt soon found himself working to stand up TPO programs for agencies in his home state of Michigan and beyond. As President of the Michigan Tactical Officers Association (MTOA), Periatt worked closely with experts in other states to improve and develop this concept, and turn it into a workable program for law enforcement. He brought that experience and knowledge to NTOA to help develop the ARPO program.

What is an Advanced Response Patrol Officer?

Police officers in SWAT gear enter a pawn shop Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Roswell, Ga., as they search for a burglary suspect. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Police officers in SWAT gear enter a pawn shop Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Roswell, Ga., as they search for a burglary suspect. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

An ARPO is a patrol officer with enhanced training, equipment and skills that will allow a more effective response to serious tactical situations that could easily overwhelm the traditional capabilities of patrol. The focus is on providing an enhanced ability to deal with elevated threats such as active shooter attacks, terrorist attacks, snipers, or police ambushes, while awaiting assistance from a tactical team.

The ARPO is not meant to replace a tactical team, but merely to bridge the gap between patrol and SWAT, controlling the situation until more robust assets arrive to counter the threat.

How ARPO works

To begin with, the NTOA envisions that ARPOs will be drawn from a pool of volunteers. NTOA recognizes that not every patrol officer will want or be able to invest the additional time and effort required to achieve a higher level of skill in the ARPO focus areas.

The ARPO designation will only come after an officer successfully completes rigorous training and can demonstrate the ability to apply that knowledge. NTOA emphasizes that, “the focus is on practical application of skills learned,” and that, “training will occur mostly on the field or on the range.” The idea is to train the volunteers in a realistic and challenging environment that will enhance their ability to apply their skills during a crisis.

Designated officers will require continuation training to keep their skills sharp and maintain ARPO status.

ARPO training goals

The ARPO syllabus provides enhanced instruction in the following subject areas to improve the ability of patrol officers to deal with ever-increasing and challenging threats:

  • Fundamentals of tactical movement;
  • Basic breaching techniques, using mechanical or ballistic means;
  • Ballistic shield operations;
  • Interior building clearing techniques for small teams (less than three personnel);
  • Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) basics;
  • Tactical movement in open air and urban environments;
  • Officer or citizen down rescues;
  • Counter-ambush survival tactics, especially around vehicles;
  • Single officer response tactics;
  • Leadership training.

Additionally, ARPOs may also receive enhanced patrol rifle training to allow them to serve as Designated Marksmen (DM), filling a critical gap between the capabilities of an average patrol rifle-equipped officer and a tactical team sniper. A DM is an officer who is equipped with a patrol rifle – which may include limited upgrades, such as magnified optics or enhanced ammunition, but still isn’t considered a precision rifle – and given advanced training, which will increase hit probability on more difficult targets (moving, distant, elevated, behind cover). DMs offer enhanced marksmanship ability to the patrol environment, providing the ability to quickly defeat or suppress threats in the absence of a tactical team.

Why do we need ARPO?

There will be people inside and outside of the law enforcement community who will question the need for this program. Why should agencies consider adding ARPO instruction to their already over-burdened training regimen?

The demands on patrol officers have steadily increased over the last several decades, particularly following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Patrol officers are increasingly required to deal with complex emergencies such as terrorist attacks or rapid mass murder attacks, and the tactics and weapons used by these aggressors have become more advanced. We have seen a notable increase in ambush attacks on police officers in the past few years, and there are no signs that the problem will abate.

We are fortunate we have not suffered any Complex, Coordinated Attacks (CCA) yet domestically, but we know our enemies are honing these tactics overseas so it is only a matter of time before they employ them here. The swarm-style tactics of a CCA will quickly disrupt our ability to respond effectively, and patrol assets will probably not have ready access to assistance from tactical teams to solve their tactical problems. Instead, patrol officers will increasingly find themselves tackling these more advanced tactics and attackers on their own, using whatever organic capabilities they have.

Our operating environment is becoming more dangerous, and the demands on patrol are becoming more rigorous. It’s time for us to consider programs like ARPO to fill the gaps in current LE training.

Additional resources

The NTOA has developed a standard for ARPO certification programs, and provides training in ARPO subject areas to individual officers and agencies. If you would like to learn more about NTOA training opportunities, visit http://www.ntoa.org/. Also mark your calendar for NTOA’s annual conference, September 16-21 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Chris Periatt and the Michigan Tactical Officers Association can provide additional resources available for you and your agency. Visit http://mtoa.org/ for more information.

God bless you all, and be safe out there.

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