Frontline Debriefs: LAPD SWAT Tactics

LAPD SWAT has had four major shootouts in the last four months. I do not recall there having been this many shootings in as many months in SWAT’s history.

For whatever reason, the bad guys in L.A. have decided to go to guns as opposed to relinquishing their freedom voluntarily. The whys, wherefores, and rationale for this phenomenon rest solely and squarely on the suspects’ shoulders and no one else’s.

SWAT SHOOTOUTS

SWAT is pretty much open to negotiation and logical conclusions. Contrary to Hollywood celluloid fare, we do not go to guns right out of the gate. We think things through and bring to bear every past experience and all tools necessary to avoid just such an outcome.

Unfortunately, some hardened nefarious types have lost this rather simple message and just open the festivities with gunplay. It’s Los Angeles, after all.

During one of these exchanges, a SWAT team member was involved in a running gun battle when supporting the famed Special Investigation Section (S.I.S.) detail. When the suspect was approximately 70 to 80 yards away, he triggered off a volley of shots. Our guy was classically barricaded behind a corner wall and armed with a 1911 .45 with only the barest (three to four inches) of his hip exposed.

Well, the bad guy somehow managed to strike him in that three to four inches of exposed hip. The round passed through the Sam Browne (this is a uniformed detail when supporting S.I.S.) and entered his hip. He has since fully recovered and we are very thankful he’s well and getting around.

Sometimes the bad guys get lucky. Believe it or not, the suspect posted a live feed of the shooting on his Facebook page. The live feed terminated abruptly when he was struck by a 5.56 round. Grabbing 15 minutes of fame is an all-too-prevalent theme in Tinseltown.

LOW READY POSITION

The low ready position and its many variations are still an extremely viable technique. However, what I observe these days is the rather unique and curiously interesting phenomenon of shooters bringing the pistol back into the center of the chest with both hands upon completion of a string of shots.

If you perform any tactical “something” in a certain manner, I am of the mindset to ask why you do so. This is logical. The most common retort to this manipulation is so the bad guy cannot get to your handgun. Fair enough.

But if the bad guy is three to five yards or even farther away, you now have to thrust the pistol back out from the center of the chest to get back on target. (I have noted some individuals return the pistol from an “on target” configuration to the center of the chest faster than the bullet arrives on target.)

From the low ready position, you have one simple line of vertical displacement to arrive back on target should the need arise. A suspect has to move his entire body to close the distance should he elect to do so. From the low ready, I need only move my arms, hands and the pistol upward either inches or about a foot to arrive back on target.

I regularly have the youngest and fastest student in my classes attempt a charge from five to six feet while my hands (sans pistol, obviously) positioned at the low ready await his futile effort. There is simply no contest.

Something to consider for all you fans of the newest, shiniest, whiz-bang techniques espoused by many who have never been there.

Oh, by the way, LAPD SWAT still utilizes the low ready.

SWAT PROTOCOLS

Why do so many movies depict SWAT team members moving back and forth with their little rubber guns behind the central detective actors/characters who are investigating a crime scene? Detectives do not traditionally arrive on scene until well after everything has been secured. Detectives do not like gunplay. Never have and never will.

Additionally, we do not wear baseball caps turned backwards nor deploy silhouetted against the skyline, and we don’t arrive in a SWAT van. We also do not load our weapons just prior to making entry.

Ahh … good old Hollywood!

Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at www.internationaltactical.com. Scott also co-hosts the Oxygen channel true-crime series It Takes a Killer.

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