[Ed. note:  This is the first article in a police training series on tactical patrol.  This training will focus your attention on the needs of patrol officers to be tactically minded and response capable.  The other articles are on Patrol Response to Critical Incidents and Patrol Rifles.]

One of the most basic tenets of law enforcement is the protection of life. “To serve and protect” is probably the most universal mission statement of American law enforcement. In that regard I want to examine the “Priorities of Life” and make sure that patrol officers understand the order and its significance when they are confronted with the most critical incidents we face.

Simply put the “Priority of Life” is demonstrated in this order:

  1. Hostages/Victims
  2. Innocent by-standers
  3. Police/First Responders
  4. Suspects/Subjects.
Tactical Patrol

Photo courtesy of Oregon DOT

As sworn defenders we must recognize that we may have to endanger ourselves to save others in harm. I put the first responders (firemen and paramedics) along side police because they are also first responders. As such, they realize that their duty may place them into harm’s way, and as such our efforts to protect them cannot be accomplished at the expense of the first two groups of people.

A suspect is someone believed to have committed a crime. A subject usually refers to someone who is suffering mental illness, suicidal, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs that may still pose a serious safety threat, but their original intent was not criminal activity.

It is also very important to emphasize that police officers should not lower themselves on that priority list by unnecessarily exposing themselves to danger simply to capture a suspect. This will be addressed in greater detail in Part II when I cover the proper considerations for handling high risk warrants or barricaded subject calls.
In most critical incidents patrol officers have been taught the “Four C’s”:

  • C-Contain
  • C-Control
  • C-Communicate
  • C-Call SWAT

However, patrol officers may be called upon to take immediate emergency action because in some circumstances the need to act won’t wait for S.W.A.T.. To do so safely, patrol officers need to know the most common methods (tactics) for ending hazardous incidents in buildings or residences. This is not for routine calls, but for the high risk calls.

These are the tactics that S.W.A.T. teams train and perform on a regular basis. Patrol officers need to know more options than just knocking on the door, or kicking the door and rushing in. The most commonly recognized tactics are:

Take Down Away – (usually only used in ending hostage situations – officers allow the suspect to leave and then take him down in a pre-planned area away from the hostages or innocents)
Surround and Call-out – (containment on the outside while ordering the occupants to exit)
Breach & Hold – (opening a door or window, but staying outside of the threshold while giving orders for occupants to exit)
Limited Penetration – (Only entering to a pre-determined area of the residence)
Controlled Entry – (clearing the residence using the best practices of cover, light control & controlled movements – not slow and deliberate, but not “dynamic” either)

SWAT cameraPatrol officers will still need to establish inner and outer perimeters to control the scene, select an arrest team in the event the suspect exits or an emergency entry is required, and assess the environment for other potential officer safety issues.

Finally, every officer must continually assess their ability to take another human being’s life. The taking of life should never be viewed lightly, but as professional law enforcement officers our duty may demand that we take a life to save a life. The priorities of life are just, reasonable, and morally and legally sustainable. Understanding the proper tactics for a given situation builds confidence into action. Having those foundations thoroughly thought out should allow the patrol officer to properly handle the critical incident that the citizens expect them to handle.

In future articles, I will discuss patrol options for responding to active shooters, barricaded subjects, and hostage situations. I will also discuss the need for patrol officers to be armed with patrol rifles and other tactical tools that will allow them to successfully resolve active tactical situations they are confronted with.

Stay safe!

Aaron is a sergeant with a midwestern police department, where he serves as a trainer, supervisor and SWAT sniper. In addition to his broad tactical knowledge, Aaron has experience in DUI, DRE and undercover narcotics investigations.

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Aaron is a sergeant with a midwestern police department, where he serves as a trainer, supervisor and SWAT sniper. In addition to his broad tactical knowledge, Aaron has experience in DUI, DRE and undercover narcotics investigations.