Trending Topics

Tactics to clear, secure a building under siege that every cop needs to know

Are you prepared to respond if essential buildings such as city hall, courthouses and police stations are overrun by protesters?


Members of the U.S. Secret Service Counter Assault Team walk through the Rotunda as they and other federal police forces responded as protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

On January 6, 2021, a crowd created havoc and temporarily overran the “People’s House.” Do you as police officers hear alarms sounding? You should!

That situation, as well as the recent ambushes and attacks on businesses, police stations and government buildings at all levels, should concern every cop whether you sit behind the wheel of a squad or behind a desk on the top floor.

You should be asking: “How does an agency prepare for such events?”

Be tactically proactive

A tactically proactive police agency can imagine problems likely encountered at critical buildings in their communities.

This mindset led our team to do walk-throughs with maintenance people in city hall, county buildings, the library and the jail. We did these at the schools as well.

After each walk-through, the team had a roundtable discussion on what problems we might face at each of the buildings and what our response would be. We identified additional tools or munitions we might need to solve problems in each unique environment. For example, a jail walk-through inspired us to purchase and train with a munition that could be deployed to quickly subdue a crowd of rioting prisoners without injuring them.

After some walk-throughs, another day was scheduled to conduct exercises coupled with scenarios. These exercises would include:

  1. Building evacuation plan.
  2. Building clearing.
  3. Arrest protocols.
  4. Hostage negotiation equipment delivery and use.

We would even measure distances from a corner wall to an office and use this and other measured distances during firearms training.

A tactically proactive police department will develop training scenarios that incorporate the following.

Clearing a building of protestors

If a building has been taken over by protesters, there are different tactics depending on whether the protesters are:

  • Armed and barricaded.
  • Passive resisters.
  • Spontaneous and destructive.

Clearing a building where someone is armed and barricaded

The tactics used for a group that is armed and barricaded are familiar to all tactical teams. The team should:

  • Attempt to locate the armed and barricaded suspect(s).
  • Isolate, clear and evacuate the rest of the building.
  • Establish and identify to all present the outer and then inner perimeter.
  • Negotiate with barricaded suspect(s).
  • Make a plan and practice that plan with the portion of the team designated to address the problem if it suddenly becomes urgently necessary to do so.

Passive resisters

There would be no rush with passive resisters. You would:

  • Contain the group.
  • Give them an order to disperse as a group. (Our teams would give another order to each person individually as well before arrest if the situation were appropriate.)
  • Arrest, flex cuff or handcuff and ask them to walk. If they refuse, use pre-trained team lifting techniques to remove them from the immediate site, then search, document the arrest and transport.
  • Documentation should be a pre-trained process where each arrest is documented as to the charge and the designated arresting officer. That officer will complete the report. Each arrest must be documented.

Spontaneous and destructive

In the case of rioters currently inside and ransacking a building, command must decide:

  • Do we have the ability to arrest them all?
  • Do we not have the ability to arrest them all?

Clearing if you are going to arrest them

Secure the exits, allowing no one in and no one out. Use pre-trained room-clearing tactics to locate and arrest using high-risk tactics on contact for arrests. On contact, order them into a high-risk position, and while team members cover them, an arrest officer approaches, handcuffs and searches.

Clearing if you are not going to arrest them

Some disturbances may be too large to “arrest them all” but you may wish to preserve the building.

Instead of securing the exits of the building, you would deliberately allow an avenue of escape as you enter. The clearing plan would naturally drive suspects toward the avenue of escape provided.

Use pepper spray to drive them toward the exit if you choose to use chemical munitions as CS and CN have a certain permanence when used inside a building. Also, make certain you are using a non-burning delivery system inside for obvious reasons. If possible, choose an escape route with cameras, or have your camera person discreetly recording the exit for future use.

Once you have nearly cleared the building the time may come where you have manageable numbers of holdouts to arrest. Make these arrests in a high-risk manner.

Secondary deep search

Once it appears that the building is cleared it is advisable to do a secondary deep search for individuals who have concealed themselves inside. All three of these building clearing options can be discussed and practiced during the exercises in the buildings mentioned above.


Every one of the skills described here became necessary to perform by federal, state and local police working together as one team on January 6, 2021, to defend the “People’s House,” and the people in it. Are you prepared to do the same for your courthouse, police station, library, college, or even your local homeless shelter?

If you prepare yourself and your officers by training with specificity for not only what you know they will face, but also what you can imagine they might face at the very spot these unthinkable events may occur, when things are at their worst you will be at your best!

NEXT: Protecting police buildings and personnel

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.