NTOA: 14 barricaded suspect response tips from LAPD SWAT

Consider these tips to update tactical team training and procedures for barricaded suspects and hostage rescue operations in your jurisdiction


Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) SWAT personnel discussed tactical concepts and challenges, risk analysis, command and control, and much more for barricaded suspects and hostage rescue operations at the 2022 National Tactical Officers Association conference in September.

Here is a set of takeaway tips from a fast-moving and information-dense presentation about LAPD SWAT team components, activations and response tactics.

Have a walk-away or go-away policy: A man with a gun in his home threatening suicide isn’t necessarily a tactical team response. If there isn’t a criminal act or outstanding warrant, attempt negotiation and counseling, but the eventual tactical plan might be to go away.

Tactical officers breach a gate at the start of a training exercise.
Tactical officers breach a gate at the start of a training exercise. (Greg Friese)

Before SWAT arrives: Patrol should contain, control, communicate and call SWAT and other resources such as K9 and air support.

Establish dialogue with the barricaded suspect: Nearly everyone has a cell phone, so attempt to communicate with them that way. Continue two-way communication with the suspect as long as they are willing to communicate.

Have a plan to receive a suspect: If you ask the suspect to surrender, make sure you have a plan in place to receive them. Also, reduce confusion and frustration by using one person to communicate with the suspect as they surrender. The cover officer covers, the communicator communicates, and other officers make the arrest.

Don’t let the suspect go mobile: Prevent suspect egress from the scene by blocking their vehicle and covering exits from the building.

Record interviews with witnesses and relatives: Instead of putting friends and family on the phone or public address system to speak directly to the barricaded suspect, ask them to make a recording that can be played back. A recording gives negotiators more control than letting someone talk to the suspect directly and in real-time.

Site the tactical command post: Pick a location near, but not in the same location as, the incident command post. The tactical command post should include considerations for ingress/egress of SWAT vehicles, as well as parking.

Video record the team’s preparation: Use body-worn cameras to record the team’s planning phase, as well as the delegation of command and control. Ideally capture information on the crime committed, suspect description and background and presence of weapons, if known.

Distribute essential elements of information: Gather and distribute information to the team. Information includes statements from witnesses, families and other first responders; the presence of dogs; alarms, surveillance systems and the layout of the building; as well as keys to the structure if they are available.

Don’t assume the suspect is still barricaded: If visual contact hasn’t been maintained, the suspect may have exited the structure before containment was made. Use K9s to check and clear the yards and insides of adjacent buildings as SWAT team personnel move into position.

Protect innocents from harm during evacuation: Use a ballistic shield to give cover to innocents being escorted out of the hot zone.

Use of gas for a barricaded suspect: Deploy gas simultaneously from each side of the location, and whenever possible involve all rooms.

Mirrors: Tactical officers should be proficient in the use of mirrors, a low-tech piece of equipment, for searching and clearing rooms.

Jump test: Before leaving the warm zone and making entry, jump off the ground to see if you have any equipment that might jangle or make noise, potentially giving away your position while clearing rooms and hallways.

Do what works

This is just a handful of tips from the content presented on barricaded suspects. The LAPD presenter emphasized that the information they shared is how they do it. Their techniques are not necessarily the best way. If what you’re doing is working, keep doing it and use information from other departments to improve your techniques and tactics.

More tactical team tips

Here are a few more tips gleaned from other sessions at the NTOA conference.

Use a step or stool to make window entry: Officers might be able to lift themselves or jump over the sill of a window, but they might get through faster using a step, stool, or ladder.

Manage documents on a shared drive: SWAT teams, especially those representing multiple jurisdictions, have thousands of documents, spreadsheets and other records. Manage those files with a document management system or shared cloud drive.

Photograph tactical officers before and after: Create a visual record of each officer’s equipment and how it was arranged on their duty vest. This might be a useful record for future reporting or to understand how equipment placement might have contributed to a mistake.

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