Keeping Them Inside
When a person dials 9-1-1, he or she can be sure law enforcement officers will get there in time to take the report. Although communications have greatly improved, and in spite of bogus, time-consuming 9-1-1 calls complaining about fast food orders, most response times are in the neighborhood of 5 minutes. Still, even the shortest response time seldom allows officers to arrive in time to find the suspect or suspects still on the scene. To make matters worse, if several units respond, they all often go to the scene; but there is a better way.
First, after broadcasting (1) the location and (2) the type of incident, the dispatch center should (3) obtain and broadcast any information on the suspect’s direction of travel, followed by his or her description. First responders will immediately understand the importance of the chronological order of the above, while dispatch may not (TRAIN THEM).
Giving the location first may very well allow a unit to turn in time to save precious seconds, rather than continuing to drive in the wrong direction. If suspects were reported leaving the scene, there may be no need for more than one or two officers to respond to the location. All other responding units should respond to the AREA, communicating as to which will deploy where. This deployment is the beginning of a perimeter, a law enforcement art form that is relatively new to the profession. It is a perimeter to keep a suspect IN.
How to Deploy
By judging time and distance, an officer can make an educated guess as to where to deploy in order to head off a fleeing suspect. In an urban setting, this may be 3 to 5 blocks from the scene, as most suspects will soon stop running and start walking. In most cases, officers should always deploy diagonally at corners where two officers can observe anyone leaving the block. Exceptions to this include a curved street, where an officer may want to position the unit in the center of the curve in order to see both ways.
Backing into a driveway may best facilitate the view, but here’s the trick. Responding officers should turn on their sirens for a few seconds upon deployment, or shortly before. If suspects become aware of units all round them, they will just as likely “bed down,” as keep running and risk being seen. I have seen it time and time again where after units have left an area, the suspect is reported nearby again. Sounding the siren also alerts residents that something
is up and they will become your eyes and ears, especially if they hear dogs begin to bark, and they will likely be motivated to call to pinpoint secondary locations. The officer also has the option to switch the car radio to PA just loud enough to be heard for a block. He or she can then lock and leave their unit to take another position, keeping within sight of the vehicle.
If the situation is at night, it works the same, but this time with lights. Light can reach as far as sound and is one of a suspect’s worst enemies. All spot and overhead lights should be turned on at the same time as the siren, but the lights must be left on. Moving the spotlight will reflect off buildings to confuse suspects as to the location of the source and will cause them to “bed down” even more than during the daytime. What’s more, your lights will alert residents at night even more than just noise will during the day and it goes the same for watchdogs. Residents will frequently call dispatch to find out what’s going on. They should be told and also asked to notify their neighbors. This is great PR!
If a suspect is seen running across a street mid-block, the officer with visual contact should immediately radio the information while repositioning his unit to view the next block. The diagonally deployed officer should immediately move to view the street the suspect crossed in case he doubles back. If the suspect does not emerge from either side of this block, other units can converge to surround it, again using lights and noise. Once the block is visually secured, a foot sweep can begin.
Man’s Best Friend
The sweep will need at least two and probably four officers, and should begin at one end of the block working all the way to the other. If a K-9 is available, use it, as a good K-9 can do the work of four cops in a search. Keep in mind that the suspect will hide in, under or above. Check inside and under everything and also check trees, shrubs and rooftops. A lightweight, folding ladder can be kept in the trunk of one or more patrol cars and should always be available. The best one I’ve used is the Quickstep, available from Cops Plus of New York, On Duty Gear of Michigan, and Tactical Gear Command of Alabama. Folding up into a 26-pound package easily stored in your trunk and carried during an area search, the Quickstep instantly deploys into a ladder up to 12 feet high that will support over 300 pounds.
By honing your patrol teams’ perimeter and search skills, you will be amazed at your success with the system. Rest assured that word will get out that your agency will take the time to corral and hunt down criminals instead of just taking the report and going back on patrol.
Keeping Them Outside
There is another type of perimeter and this one is designed to keep people out. This perimeter is used in such things as HAZMAT, fires and other situations dangerous to the public. Any of these situations can be as dangerous to first responders as they are to the general public. Since fire departments usually respond as quickly as law enforcement, are better trained and have protective gear, they usually take the front line with law enforcement manning only what we normally think of as the outer perimeter. However, law enforcement will often take over or assist with evacuation or other duties if requested by the fire department.
The outer perimeter will often generate resistance with residents demanding to drive or walk through to get to their homes. In some instances, all law enforcement can do is try to prevent people from passing through barricades, but detainment and arrest is all but out of the question due to manpower shortages, resulting in an “enter at your own risk” warning.
The one scenario designed to keep people out of an area that we’ll concentrate on here is where a barricaded suspect is concerned, namely one who is armed with a firearm, and especially where shots have already been fired. In such situations, first responders have three initial responsibilities: PREVENT THE KILLING AND INJURIES, STOP
THE KILLING AND INJURIES, AND PREVENT THE DYING. This applies to the first responders as well as private citizens, as dead or injured cops are of no use. If the situation is so bad that these responsibilities cannot be carried out without imminent loss of officers, alternate plans will have to be made. We’ll go into crisis rescue techniques soon in another discussion. For now, let’s make it simple.
The perpetrator is holed up, has a gun and maybe has fired shots, but has not hit anyone, or those injured have been able to escape to safety to call the police and you get the call. How do you respond? I think lights and sirens are a bad idea unless turned off well before the suspect can get a fix on your approach. Sure, he or she knows you’ll be coming, but turning off your emergency equipment well in advance will confuse them as to where you will “park.” Note that this does not apply to all situations. If the caller reports someone beating or stabbing or even shooting a victim, I might well elect to respond to the scene code 3 front deploying with a four-wheel lock skid. I’ve used this as a distraction or to make the perp stop and flee, especially in an “officer in trouble” call. Prevent or stop the killing? Save the day? You bet, but every situation is different. You’ll have to decide based on everything you know about the call and yourself. Are you trained and are you ready?
Here’s a basic formula. Dispatch should have a pin map, so they can give responding units the house or houses directly behind the location of the call. This must be done by counting houses from corners for units responding. At least one unit should deploy near the location on the street behind, silently with lights out and out of sight of the location. Other units can do the same one street in back of the houses across the street. Officers can then approach on foot through yards using available cover and concealment to view the location. This is especially important if the suspect is armed with a rifle.
Evacuating houses in the proximity can, if necessary, be done by one or two officers on each side of the street. The officer should start at a back or side entrance of the farthest house away from the suspect he or she intends to evacuate. How many houses to evacuate around the suspect will depend on a number of factors, but more is better than too few. Six in both directions may be a good starting point.
Upon making contact with residents, the officer should tell them the circumstances and ask them to meet him at that entrance in ten minutes. The officer should repeat this with each house until he reaches the closest house directly across the street or next to the suspect’s house. Another officer can do the same thing from the other direction. The officers should then gather residents from each house and escort them to safety away from the suspect’s house using the backyards for travel. Where obstacles present a problem, the officer will have to adapt as best he or she can, even traveling through to the next street. Residents should lock their homes upon leaving, but it they refuse to leave they should be instructed to remain inside with doors locked and to stay away from windows. Once evacuation is complete, those residents must be transported to a safe location.
While evacuation is taking place, first-responding officers should establish an inner perimeter and an outer perimeter. The inner perimeter will be close enough for officers to view all sides of the house while staying concealed. This can usually be accomplished by two officers using diagonal deployment, i.e., officers positioned on opposite corners. The inner perimeter should be flexible and “collapsing,” with officers initially taking positions farther away before assessing and moving in closer as conditions allow. How close they are to the house will depend
on officer safety considerations, even if the suspect is armed only with a handgun. A primary responsibility will be to prevent the suspect from escaping to another location.
A patrol carbine will probably be the best weapon selection here with a shotgun second. The role of the officers here will be one of containment, but the carbine can also be used to neutralize the suspect if rules of engagement and opportunity allow it. The inner perimeter will best be manned by officers specially trained in SWAT, SRT, ERT, Special Operations, or whatever the agency calls this unit. Such officers can take over the inner perimeter as they arrive. If necessary, water and electricity may be interrupted, and if night falls, high intensity lights can be stationed to shine into the house from all sides to block the suspect’s view of the outside and increase stress and fatigue.
The outer perimeter must be far enough away to be out of sight of the suspect and may well be located at area intersections in order to divert vehicular traffic. The command post, rescue squad and fire department will be stationed beyond the outer perimeter, where negotiations can be conducted. Conditions will then dictate how the situation will be resolved, i.e., surrender, chemical agents, sharpshooters, etc.
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