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SWAT team training tips for 2021

Make these best practices part of your training calendar

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Review debriefs of events to understand how would you handle them.


By Police1 Staff

Training is the lifeblood of any law enforcement agency, but especially for SWAT teams who are challenged to respond to complex and dangerous incidents.

We hope you will make the following tactical training tips from Police1 columnists and contributors part of your training calendar in 2021.

1. Don’t keep it simple! Being on a SWAT team is challenging and we need to be professional and we should strive to be as knowledgeable as we can.

2. You don’t always have to sweat at SWAT training, there needs to be an academic component. Discuss barricades, hostage rescue, high-risk warrants and everything else SWAT teams respond to.

3. Review debriefs of events, after all, they have happened and they could happen in your jurisdiction. Understand how would you handle them. Conduct tabletop exercises to see what your team actually knows and address deficiencies.

4. If you have a National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) membership, read articles that are relevant to your needs and use the shared file area so you don’t spend all your time recreating something that exists.

5. Obtain an audible book account and have your team members listen to books that pertain to leadership and team development.

Lt. Matt Hardesty is a 26-year veteran of law enforcement who served 22 years on the SWAT team as an operator, grenadier, rappel master and team leader and executive officer.

6. Concentrate as much as possible in your exercises on basic skills performed smoothly as a team especially:

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. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II.”

7. Make use of abbreviated tabletop exercises to get command staff involved in tactical training. Leadership and critical incident management skills are essential to the successful resolution of a tactical event, and can be exercised in brief simulations that force police leaders to practice them in realistic scenarios.

— Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Mike Wood is the son of a 30-year California Highway Patrolman and the author of “Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis,” the highly-acclaimed study of the 1970 California Highway Patrol gunfight in Newhall, California.

8. Go back to the basics. Use on-going scenario-based integrated training to teach, explain and reinforce the skills and most importantly the WHY related to the primary mission of SWAT: saving lives.

David Pearson and Dan Murphy are lieutenants with Fort Collins Police Services in Fort Collins, Colorado, and instructors for the National Tactical Officers Association.

Next: What are the biggest challenges for SWAT teams in 2021?