Planning your tactical response to bank alarms

When an alarm is received, it is typically unknown whether you’ve got a real robbery, a false alarm, or someone needing assistance who used the alarm system to obtain help


For more than 25 years I worked in an area that had a number of bank robberies each month. With this much activity, we learned how to respond correctly and tactically because we had to respond to so many. In law enforcement, perfect practice makes perfection. Banks are not designed for law enforcement response to robberies. Smoke-colored glass and window treatments prohibit seeing inside and bushes surrounding the building can prevent getting close. Some banks are stand alone structures, some are located inside of other businesses such as shopping centers and malls, and some are just an office mixed in with other offices.

The first order of business should be for all the bank managers within your jurisdiction meet with the local police and sheriff’s departments to create a standard response to robbery tactical plan. Much of the plan will not be discussed here. It is easier if each bank were to respond exactly the same. Law enforcement officers must know that when they respond to both an active or false alarm, all bank personnel have been trained the same. People — including officers — will act the way they are trained. Because all trained skills are perishable, skills must be honed constantly.

Once coordination between bank personnel, law enforcement dispatch, and responding officers has been worked out, the next topic is the proper tactical response. Due to trial (and unfortunately, error), I highly recommend the following strategies and tactics culled from the Officer Survival Mindset seminar that I created and teach on this subject.

When an alarm is received, it is typically unknown whether you’ve got a real robbery, a false alarm, or someone needing assistance who used the alarm system to obtain help. If the officers are doing crisis rehearsal in their heads, then they are prepared for anything. The ideal response that we developed was to have both marked and unmarked units respond. It is important that the uniform officers know who the plainclothes officers are. Immediately a perimeter is established around the structure. Remember that the people inside the bank will be able to see out and during the initial set up law enforcement might be blind to what is happening inside. Plainclothes officers can get closer than uniforms. In this case, plainclothes means those not wearing black law enforcement tactical clothes. Once the perimeter is secured, dispatch is notified to make the call to the bank.

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