Amateur SWAT is Worse Than Regular SWAT

Fly SwatterA post at Extrano’s Alley reminds us that we’ve been remiss in following up the issues with a Georgia SWAT wrong-house raid that left a child hovering near death for days. The Stranger quotes a gut-wrenching paragraph from an article by the kid’s mother, in Salon:

I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him. He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth. It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.

via Parents Report On The Child The SWAT Team Blew Up With A Grenade | Extrano’s Alley, a gun blog.

There are some serious training deficiencies evident with these County Mounties from Gaptooth County, GA, and their Good Ol’ Boys SWAT Team an’ Mixed-Race-Kid Huntin’ Club.

Flashbang 101

Let’s begin with what a flash-bang is, what it was invented for, and how to use it. It is an offensive grenade providing a disorienting less-lethal (as we’ve seen in this case, not necessarily non-lethal) explosion that is intended to distract a hostage taker long enough for a CT team’s assaulters or snipers to kill him before he can target them. It was developed for national-level CT assets and Is the sort of weapon you use as an alternative to seeing hostages murdered — it’s a lesser evil.

Here’s the employment scheme for a flash-bang.

  1. With eyes on target, locate an area to throw the grenade in that does not have anyone in it (except perhaps a hostage-taker).
  2. Arm and throw the grenade at that exact spot, while maintaining eyes on target.
  3. Take eyes off target and shield them for blast.
  4. Instantly after blast, make entry. Locate the hostage taker and kill him before he reorients himself.

The weapon was never designed to be used in a case where you are trying to take your opponent alive. Those safety measures (eyes on the place you’re throwing the flash-bang) are there because of the probable presence of individuals who are not your opponents (the opponents are designated to die in any case).

To pass flash-bang certification (required in ethical units/departments to be able to throw the things “for real”), an assaulter has to run that cycle or something very similar, usually involving an instructor on the target making eye contact and seeing that the student’s eyes are searching the room. Throw a flash/bang blind? Never get certified.

Team Operations Require Team Training

Here’s the key to clearing buildings and/or rescuing hostages: it’s a team sport, and apart from individual skills, the team needs the kind of teamwork that only high-intensity and frequent drills produce. The drills only work with the same guys in the same position — the position you play is as important here as it is on, say, a football team or rugby side. You can’t be a lineman one day and a receiver the next, and quarterback some other time. Not if you aspire to membership in the ranks of the professionals.

And Here’s What You Get When You Skip That:

Here’s a few fun facts about the incident that wounded “Bou-bou” Phonesavanh.

  • The individual who threw the grenade in Georgia had no such flash-bang certification. Neither did any of the SWAT members.
  • The thrower had not had any formal training on how to use the grenade, or its capabilities.
  • He’d never thrown one before.
  • The individual never looked in the room, but threw the grenade blind into the toddler’s crib.
  • The SWAT members didn’t just lie to the child’s stressed-out mother, Alecia Phonesavanh. They also lied to their superiors about the incident. Many departments will countenance the former, but not many have much toleration for the latter. (There’s also some question of the integrity of the officers in charge, who have previously been found to falsify records in other cases).
  • The SWAT team was all new and had conducted almost no individual and collective training.
  • They claimed they “knew” there were no children in the house, but no policeman had been in the house, and even their informant had not been inside. They actually had to move a baby stroller and walk past a minivan with four child seats to stack up on the house. Four child seats and a stroller are what an intelligence officer might call “indicators.”
  • News stories say the target of the raid was arrested “later,” but supposedly the investigation has uncovered that he was already in custody when the raid initiated. So the raid took place to grab a guy who was already in the back of a cruiser elsewhere. “Why waste a good (?) raid plan?” seems to have been their rationale.

A previous team with some of the same officers shot an innocent man in 2009, and investigation then determined that some of the officers had had no training but did have pencil-whipped training records. That one cost the taxpayers $2.3 million despite DA Brian Rickman’s efforts to cover it up. He was working to cover this one up, too, so the investigation has been taken out of his untrustworthy hands. There were no consequences to Rickman or county police leadership over the falsified records and cover-up attempt. In retrospect, that was probably one of the errors that led directly to the grave injuries visited on this innocent kid.

Now, the system is going all-out to protect these guys, who are enjoying the traditional non-charged vacation. But if you’re a serious cop who doesn’t want your department to star in a story like this, here are a few pointers:

  1. Know your limitations. If you’re a rural, small department with a tight budget, maybe a SWAT team is not for you, and you’d be better off relying on regional assets or coming up with more creative ways to collect your fugitives and serve your warrants,
  2. Don’t let your desire for shiny war toys from the Pentagon write a check that your training budget can’t cash. Bare minimum proficiency at clearing simple, small buildings can be achieved in three weeks of 16-plus hour days, with the same guys in the same positions. And that assumes that they’re already proficient with the guns they’ll be using. Any more than bare minimum proficiency requires more than this bare minimum training schedule.
  3. Never, ever, turn an officer loose without him having documented and complete training on his weapons systems. Trust, sure, but verify. Not having done that is about to bite the taxpayers of this jurisdiction in the wallet for the second time in four years. At some point, they’ll get tired of writing checks and shake up police leadership.

If you read #3 above and your approach is to make up fictional training and write it in your officers’ personnel jackets, you’re doing it wrong — you’re doing what these clowns did. Don’t be that guy.

20 thoughts on “Amateur SWAT is Worse Than Regular SWAT

  1. Wise Cave Owl

    These are not random, reformable events. The State-ists are looking ahead to the day when they will longer be able to buy consent via debt-issuance. The message is FEAR US

    1. Bill K

      Please consider that message delivered. Now what are they going to do to keep fear from turning to hate? Whatever psyops plan they have, it doesn’t appear to be winning hearts & minds.

  2. Stefan van der Borght

    Divide and conquer, then? The fuzz are already far removed from Peel’s maxims. Over here in Teutonia the citizens dilligently spy on each other, and have been ever since Prussian times and the schooling those successful catherders invented (and exported). The Gesapo and Stasi merely inherited a populace where at least one in four volunteered to snitch on the neighbours (or maybe, the Gestapo and Stasi grew out of that fertile soil?). It’s something I think of from time to time, as I deal with immigrants from the former Warsaw Pact provinces; was this person an informer? Would they do it again? Sobering thoughts, especially in conjuction with the declaration of the head of the BKA (kind of like the FBI in lederhosen) a couple of years ago that things were so much better back in the good ol’ DDR. Yeah, so good they had minefields and MG fences to keep the rest of the world from climbing over into utopia. At least the modern Teutonian SWAT’s are likely very professional, a comfort to folks like the homeschool family that had such an einsatzgruppe show up one morning last year to repossess the kids. Ah, what a world. You folks are in for an interesting time. So are we, only in a different way. Flashbang boy shoud be on the blunt end of a truncheon wielded by the parents, 39 memorable stripes for a fool.

  3. Aesop

    Thanks for that forensic breakdown, but this is not a case where mere financial damages are even close to adequate.

    Personally, I’d suggest nothing short of flash-bang enemas for the entire raid team, as Hammurabic justice par excellence, and by no means of slight intention, pour encourager les autres.
    Some might think it goes to far or is too harsh, but seriously, I think we can agree that it’s time to thin this particular herd.

    The longer and littler these sorts of things are un- or only slightly punished, the greater the spring-back is going to be when society corrects things.
    And history teaches us that it will, inevitably.

  4. robroysimmons

    My local PD is of a local well funded suburb and no way in hell are they trained as you say an entrant needs to be trained. Simply not enough time to have a shift’s worth of people to train, and they’re cops so they are typically lazy braggarts. They do “train” with Simunitions though, probably enough to kill a hapless loser with less training.

    I will say one thing positive about our PD they are professional on their public interactions, perhaps a bit behind the times in that regard.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Simunitions are great for force-on-force training. They’re used in a phase of SFAUC and in other special operations courses. They are the intermediate step, after doing walk-throughs and getting training on individual tasks (including flash-bangs, breaching tools, etc), and before going to live fire in the shoot house or shoot compound. The two ways the building blocks work are:

      Crawl (slow, walk-through talk-through) -> Walk (work up to real time with nonlethal force-on-force) -> Run (full speed, full-on live fire).

      Crawl (non-fire or dry-fire) -> Walk (blanks and simunitions) -> Run (live fire with warshots in all weapons).

      If a guy is having a hard time getting it, and his team is ready to move on, he may start the live-fire phase still with a blue barrel (Simunitions weapon) for safety.

      Instructors are very hands on in the earlier phases, by live fire they’ve stepped back and observe and critique. By this point the team is running its own training, basically, and running its own critiques. These are as intense as any Cultural Revolution self-criticism session for Mao’s cadres. But nobody gets shot except the “enemy” targets.

      In the live fire, the “enemy” are targets or dummies (in the “walk” phase they are role players with simunitions of their own), and the “hostages” may be targets or may be role players… using live role players in a shoot house is a very advanced technique and I don’t think more than 5 civilian SWAT teams could pull it off (FBI HRT, DOE’s contract guys, LAPD and possibly LASD, and that’s about it. NYPD ESD, who are full-time and work like dogs on their TTPs, wouldn’t touch that with a bargepole).

  5. Dan F

    Why would they need training? They are immune from responsibility. Maiming a child, kill someone so what. Result is you get a week or two’s paid leave that doesn’t count as against your vacation and a lecture on how it looks bad and now the department is getting sued. Money isn’t coming from their pockets.

  6. Descendant of Cave Painters

    In today’s police departments, the level of the quality of Leadership and Training are a reflection of the political will of the community that are being served. If egalitarian hiring and promotion practices are in place, there is greater likelihood of lowered standards of leadership and of lowered quality of officers’ abilities, skills, job knowledge and Training to achieve political goals inside the police department. Shortcomings here will always yield a net deficiency of service. Where standards are NOT sacrificed for political expediency and Training and Leadership are primary points of focus for the the department’s goals of service, and competent community oversight of the department’s performance are in place, the relationship with the community being served is more satisfactory in that the ‘quality of service’ is necessarily of a higher order.
    Pay attention to who you hire and how they are trained and how they are lead. Don’t skimp on backgrounds, don’t skimp on training. Don’t hire and promote based on a desire to advance “equality.” QUALITY is a concept that should be completely understood and achieved in all government service agencies, but especially those who have use of force as part of their mandate.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Excellent comment. Personnel is policy, and excellence overrides anything. I never had any question than any SF officer or NCO was in a position for any reason other than merit. I saw an organization that would remove failures, sometimes compassionately, and sometimes rudely, but usually rapidly in either case, without regard for their group membership.

      You met the standard, or you hit the trail. What a way to run an organization! The National Labor Relations Board would have a litter of kittens at the very thought.

  7. RebelDad

    Who gives a flying fart in the wind about proper Swat training, vetting or anything else for that matter. These LEO live, thrive and are driven forward by a complete environment of arrogance and invincibility. From the top down these Jack-Boots are trained that they are better than everyone else and that the “Blue-Line” will ALWAYS shield and protect its own.
    What MUST start happening is that FIRSTa lawful and peaceful recourse be demanded. When that is laughed off and some BS investigations finds them innocent THEN Vigilante squads need to form and the offending officers need to be systematically targeted and punished. Following each punishment a Disclaimer needs to be posted demanding that the remaining officers be removed and incarcerated. This MUST keep going all the way to the top if necessary.

  8. eminencefrontman

    Thank you for your insight. You analyses of the matter leads me to believe this is a classic case of the “Peter Principle,” which says you don’t know your level of incompetence until you are asked to exceed it. I have no doubt Bubba and the gang on the “SWAT” team thought they were ready to go after the bad guys, and probably spent a lot of off time throwing lead down range. But as you point out, that’s simply not enough. As for the increased militarization of the LEOs, it seems the only way to stop this is by our like-minded tribemates getting elected to city councils and county judge executive boards with the power of the purse. Once we start grabbing ’em by the short hairs and forcing them to choose between funding their cruiser fuel allotment or their overtime allotment or funding their ninja turtle fund, that MRAP soll quickly become too expensive to own and they will go up on eBay tout suite.

  9. TimeHasCome

    Just like in the movie Tremors when the creature burst into the Rec room Burt Gummer yelled those now famous words at the creature ” Looks like you broke into the wrong G*D Damn Rec Room! Bert and wife were very ready and took action . These SWAT teams are going to get SWATTED themselves .

    1. Bill K

      Still can’t add the comment, so here it was:

      So the corrosive culture is mainly a result of scheduling goals, communications, technology, and deficient planning? What about the people? We are to think that this hodgepodge of ideas took mind control of uniformly ‘wonderful personnel’?

      Could someone please arrange for these jackets full of medals to go to boot camp and tell Gunny Hartman their tales of woe? Or would it be better to invite all the vets to host blanket parties at their various institutes of higher socialism?

      Nope, the solution is to hire a ‘better leader’, says Earnest Josh.

      If only Stalin knew.

  10. LTC F

    Here’s another crazy idea from back when I was a Deputy Sheriff, back in the days when it was “To Protect and Serve” as opposed to “Let’s Do it to Them Before They Do It to Us”. I stead of raiding a house n the middle of the night, wait until the wanted dude comes out to go to work, sell drugs, or get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. This isn’t Pablo Escobar. He’s going to come our sometime. You grab him in the driveway and don’t put innocents at risk. Maybe you put a cop at risk, but that’s what cops get paid for. You want a risk free profession, go be an accountant. You want to kick down doors and throw flashbangs, and do Battle Drill 6 (enter and clear a room) join the Army. If you want to Protect and Serve, be a cop.

  11. marko

    “Instead of raiding a house n the middle of the night, wait until the wanted dude comes out to go to work, sell drugs, or get a cup of coffee at Starbucks.”

    Sorry LTC, that went out the window (or should I say, in the window) with WACO. Koresh had been going to town and they knew it. Apparently that kind of common sense policing is only on TV dramas.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Actually, Waco was supposed to be a TV Drama, but one showing a perfect ATF raid, justifying a budget bump for the outfit, which was then in bad odor for its annual celebration of racism, the “Good Ol’ Boys Roundup,” where ATF agents presented one another, I am not making this up, “Nigger Hunting Licenses.”

      Black agents complained they felt excluded. Ya think?

      Anyway, to get over THAT, the scandal nobody remembers, they staged Waco, only their suspects didn’t cooperate.

      Just like in flying, when planning a raid you need to mentally work a sort of Ishikawa diagram or fault-tree analysis, inductively, first in your head and then in the paper: “If I do this, and the adverse party does that, what do I do next?”

      If you don’t to that someone else will be running the Ishikawa diagram on your decisions, deductively, over the embers of your operation.

      In the end ATF got its TV spectacle, and its reputation has never recovered from that 20-year-old disaster, partly because they resisted accountability and destroyed evidence, tarring the whole organization as criminals no better than the gangs they ostensibly pursue.

      Here’s NASA teaching fault-tree analysis:
      http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codeq/risk/docs/ftacourse.pdf
      And yeah, it’s something NASA started doing in response to an accident or two. In organizations that can never find the time or excuse the expense to do it right, it’s remarkable on what they’ll try to spend to do it over.

      They teach this analysis at every engineering school and B-school, so it’s not like people are ignorant of how to do it.

    2. Hognose Post author

      I will add, Marko, that one of the reasons cops try to raid the premises to grab the guy seems sensible enough: they want to get the suspect and the evidence. What happens if you get the suspect but no evidence? Most of the time, you have to let him go unless you have a very solid case already in place. The Habersham County sheriff’s office had a pretty weak case based on a single buy reported by a criminal snitch. It’s not the kind of case that gives the ADA or AUSA a good feeling, so it’s the kind of case where the 1811’s walk away from the AUSA cursing him or her.

      There are some tough questions hidden here. When is too soon to grab the guy? When too late?

      In a recent raid I’m familiar with, the agent in charge told a task force agent from another federal agency not to bring his breaching tools, because it was just a flimsy wooden doo. Agent 2 complied and left them in the car. Suspects had a steel door inside the wood door – d’oh! In consternation AIC sends A2 back to car to get a ram and hooligan, etc. It takes several minutes for agents to get in… They are now hoping the lab finds some residue in the plastic bags, because the contents of the bags went down the toilet. Yes, it really happens.

      Unless there’s something in those bags, something enough for the lab to find (and all those crime lab tv shows are bullshit, half of them couldn’t find a firework in the July 4 sky), the suspects are going to walk.

      They had guns but the guns were legal and the agents will have to return them if the case is dismissed (that’s as it should be, the law is the law and protects everyone’s rights, but everyone knows that in this case we are dealing with armed criminals, who just don’t happen to have a disabling conviction – yet).

      1. rebeldad

        … but everyone knows that in this case we are dealing with armed criminals, who just don’t happen to have a disabling conviction – yet).
        THIS my friends is REALLY how LEO sees every man, woman AND child in America today. Thats why when their raids or stops go wrong they IMMEDIATLY rip everything to shreds digging for anything and everything so as to justify their Fascist tactics.
        IF you or a loved one falls under their design, you can bet they will get something to pin on you. PERIOD.
        We can NOT vote our ways out of this folks… You figure it out

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