Lessons from SWAT the Street Cop Can Use on The Three Speeds of Operations


LT Dan Marcou has another great essay titled “Training SWAT for three speeds of operations and I feel the lessons hold true to patrol officers working the streets day in and day out.  I know the essay is focused on SWAT but the team concept of small unit or shift ,speed or tempo applies to as well.

“Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has no precautions.” ~Sun Tzu the Art of War

LT Dan’s essay is in accord with discussions we have had here about developing more full spectrum police officers who are capable of dealing with the complexity of the world and its conflicts. These evolving threats demand, a new type of policing—the full spectrum police officer. Full spectrum policing requires building specialized individual police officers and hybrid forces capable of operating in a range of environments and missions. They must be able to transition between community policing and investigations to public order and riot control missions to high-intensity operations ranging from gang control to counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. The street cop must prepare and train to a much higher level and must understand tactical theory, concepts and be able to apply adaptable methods to the unfolding circumstances. Speed is just one of those concepts and a very important one. 

In LT Dan’s essay Speed of operations are described as follows:

Noted SWAT Trainer and former FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Morris Moriwaki has described the three speeds a SWAT team should train to operate at as:

Stealth Speed — This is a slow methodical, often silent approach to clear a building or area. The speed allows for movements to be deliberate and orchestrated as a team.
Warrant Speed — This speed is smooth and flowing, but still methodical and done as a team.
Hostage Rescue Speed — This speed can be described as moving as fast as you can move through and area to a known threat and still:
     1. Operate as a team
     2. Hit what you’re shooting at

In today’s world there is a tendency to be heading toward slow and methodical and away from an orientation toward speed.  Some teams prefer to set up an inner and outer perimeter on warrants and then call the suspects out. Others lean toward a breach and hold, followed by negotiations to call out the suspects.

The key in law enforcement whether your a street cop or a SWAT operator should not be in the tendency to lean towards slow verses fast. Instead it should be on which speed fits the set of circumstances we find ourselves in and knowing the WHY behind the speed and tactics we apply.  Another important question to consider is, can the speeds we operate at vary If the circumstances change? If so should not our tempo? To often we get caught up in the the we need to do this  or that without consideration to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Tactics are not only about doing. Tactics has much to do about THINKING! Adaptability and tactics are about “How To Think” not “What To Think” As GEN Gray said; “in tactics its not whether or not you go left or right but why you go left or right that matters.” The same holds true for speed of operations. The key is getting a true sense of urgency as to what's happening verses the false sense of urgency driven by emotion that is oh so very prevalent in street level responses and then adapt to meet the circumstances.  The key is in knowing when to go fast and when to go slow, there is a balance to maneuver, and training in individual and group methods is paramount to successfully mastering tactics.  

“Training SWAT for three speeds of operations is a great piece that should get you to thinking and generate discussion tactics so be sure to read the complete article. While thinking about tactics and discussing them, remember there is no single, scientific solution to a tactical problem as GEN Patton exclaimed;  “War is an art and as such is not susceptible to explanation by fixed formula.”

Stay Oriented!