Departments are frequently required to serve warrants that
while hazardous, may not justify a SWAT team call-out. The Warrant Service
Tactics Course is designed for police and sheriff’s departments, drug task
forces, street crimes units, and fugitive apprehension teams that encounter
these conditions on a regular basis. The course is less than a full SWAT
course, but with a similar fundamental curriculum.
Training for warrant service must be hands-on. About 15
percent of the time is spent in the classroom with diagrams and demonstrations
of tactics or techniques. A similar time frame is devoted to dry fire drills to
gain the fundamental skills. The remainder is spent on live fire or practical
exercises including a shoot house. Let’s take a look at how the daily syllabus
After taking care of the course administration and details,
we do a safety brief for the classroom, static range, and shoot house. For many
students, this will be their first time in a live-fire shoot house, so a
complete briefing is important. Time is spent on terminology and verbal
commands to ensure everyone completely understands.
Next comes the static range and the fundamentals of close-quarters
shooting techniques. A major focus is put on weapon carry positions, so as not
to muzzle sweep a partner during room clearing or while in a stack. Positions 3
and SUL are shown and students choose their preference. From there,
presentation drills are shown with an emphasis on guaranteed first shot hits.
Follow-Thru Drills are also done to ensure the operator checks for secondary
threats. Verbal commands are incorporated into the drills, which directly ties into
A PowerPoint presentation then illustrates room combat and
team flow. Some student demonstrations on dos and don’ts bring home the
methodology. The focus is on basic skill sets. From a trainer’s perspective,
it’s important to present this information at the correct pace. Too fast and
you’ll overwhelm the group while too slow will get them bored.
To better illustrate room clearing tactics, we move to the
static range for “rope drills.” Better put, we outline the floor plan of three
rooms using PVC pipe. That allows students to better see the interaction
between all teammates during the team flow between rooms. The verbal commands
now come into play as operators cue off others’ verbal commands, controlling
the speed and movement of the stack. We do three rooms with six students to
The first few drills are dry fire and have the instructor
moving with stack—positioning people as needed and giving prompts as to what
occurs next. Several more students only doing dry drills are run before they go
live fire. The initial live runs are done at walking speed to ensure safety.
The final drills are at real speed to conclude the morning.
The methodology we teach is fairly simple and straightforward.
It does not require a detailed knowledge of the floor plan to be effective,
since we know that intel gained from a ‘snitch’ is often inaccurate. Second, it
allows operators to be inserted or deleted into the stack without affected
tactics. The system works with the first two operators gaining a toe hold on
They split the room in half for their individual Areas of
Responsibility. They check their AOR, and then give a verbal “clear” and “go.”
On go, the stack moves to the next door while the initial clearing pair holds
the flanks. As the stack moves, the first pair of operators re-attaches
themselves to the rear. The process is repeated until the structure is cleared.
On the topic of room combat, we cover several dos and don’ts.
The two most significant student mistakes are over-penetrating the room and
advancing on the target while firing. Advancing too deep into the room causes
several major issues: 1) your partner cannot support you on certain threats
because the angle of engagement to the threat is too close; 2) you lose control
of the room’s corner and bypass a threat; 3) you move past open doors on side
walls, which presents your back to an uncleared area; and 4) your position is
past the cover line for room offsets, which cannot be seen in your peripheral
To counter this, we emphasize that the students enter two
steps into and two steps aside of the doorway. This keeps the clearing pair online,
clears the fatal funnel, and gets them past any furniture that may be against
Next, it is off to the shoot house. We do a dry rehearsal
with a six-person team clearing four rooms with all open doors. Target
placement is a concern at this stage so as to direct students into the correct
movements. No place for ambiguous target position at this stage. We want to
make sure the correct operator engages the correct target for learning and
safety purposes. Also, the instructor positions himself to be the third person
into the room to control the room clearing element and block unauthorized
persons in the stack from entering.
The class does several live-fire runs on these first four
rooms. We want them to feel relaxed and somewhat assured at this stage so speed
is not stressed. However, first shot hits are emphasized; not only for better
control but also to guarantee positive threat identification. The student’s
position within the stack is rotated on each run so they better understand
their role and tasks as the team moves throughout a building.
Later, we integrate an offset or L-shaped room into the
training. Initially, we practice this as a single room obstacle to discuss
different techniques for clearing. The merits and hazards are discussed and
practiced dry. Most often, the class will settle on the most efficient method
on their own. Bringing a third person into the room is the basis for clearing
If the third person moves up through the center of the room,
it provides a better visual angle into the offset, but can present a cross-fire
or danger close situation with the other operators. Having the third clearing
officer run the wall on the flank side lessens these hazards; although the
visual advantage is diminished. The day concludes with the team clearing all
five rooms at real speed timings.
Day two begins on the flat range breaching facades with
closed door drills. After a brief instructional period, students dry practice
the team flow for dealing with closed doors incorporated into room clearing.
They must learn to read a door quickly to determine a ‘push’ versus a ‘pull’
door. (Don’t laugh.) A pull door is flush with frame and the hinges are
visible. A push door is recessed in the frame and the hinges are hidden.
The third person moves out of the stack to open the door
while the stack maneuvers to the best angle to make entry. This allows the
first two operators to be in the best position to flow into the room when the
We then progress to the shoot house using the same pattern
as the day before, but now with all the doors closed. This allows students some
continuity from the previous day and allows them to focus more on the closed
door drills. Again, we do some rehearsals before going live-fire. To make sure
the students will be operationally ready, we do several runs from different
entry points and a mixed configuration of open and closed doors. Having a well-designed
shoot house with multiple external doors is an advantage. It allows fresh and
different perspectives of the floor plans for multiple runs without getting
Once the group has accomplished a degree of proficiency in
room combat, we next incorporate the approach to the building along with basic
mechanical breaching. For the best learning curve, we work on covert foot
approaches, which allow students to better understand individual tasks team
movements. The breacher is generally positioned at the middle or rear of the
stack. Since the preacher has his/her hands occupied with tools, a cover man
always moves with the breacher for immediate self defense. That cover man is
best designated as the person behind the breacher in the stack. That way he can
see when the breacher moves and immediately move with him.
Our emphasis is on pre-positioning the stack and the
breacher for the best results prior to announcing the team’s presence. The
breacher and cover man must be in a good position to effectively hit the door.
We perform several dry drills on push doors [ram] and pull doors [Halligan
Tool]. Our pace is relatively slow, which allows students to self correct
Since most warrants are “knock & announce,” we detail a
method that complies with many courts’ concerns on timings. To withstand this
scrutiny, we use the standard of how long would it take a person coming from
the farthest room in the building to answer the door. So once all elements are
set at the door, the team leader receives a “thumbs up.” Then he/she issues the
knock and announce order, and begins a mental countdown. When the timing is
correct, he/she gives the team its go signal to breach.
Now we put it all together. The class is given several full
scale runs on the shoot house from the foot approach through clearing the
entire structure. Doors, targets or partitions may be moved during the break.
The exercises initially run up the dominate signal at which point the structure
is secure. The class encounters several variables such as different student
positions, or persons added or deleted from the stack. We add in reorganization
tasks such as back-clearing, detaining suspects, and detailed searches.
Depending on the client, low-light scenarios can conclude the day.
Introducing another operational option, we start the third
day with vehicle approaches. To prevent a Keystone Cops type situation, there
is a short classroom session detailing the planning phase of rolling assaults.
Students learn the importance of selecting the correct vehicles, seating order
for key individuals, and the convoy lineup. Our philosophy is that it is safer
and more efficient to take a few seconds to form up the team at the vehicles
before moving to the entry point.
Two key points to consider are the position of the case
agent and breacher. The case agent [or designee] is someone who is familiar
with the target location and can positively identify the correct building and
entry point. The type/size of vehicle for the breacher needs to be considered so
he/she can exit with the ram or other tools.
The students organize themselves and the available vehicles
using these principles. We do several dry drills with a small driving segment
in the parking lot. After each drill, the students self critique and make
adjustments to their plan. One source of contention usually is the Form Up
Point where the convoy will stop and occupants debus. Students must gauge the
available cover/concealment with the distance to the entry point.
At the FUP, students debuss their vehicles and organize into
a stack in the correct order of movement. Designated persons, usually from the
lead vehicle, provide initial static cover. Drivers now have sufficient time to
get their vehicles in park, access keys, and get out of their vehicles.
Time is then spent at the shoot house with more mission
profile scenarios. More variables, such as no-shoot targets, are added.
Students are introduced tactics for non-lethal threats, which integrates the
Contact & Cover method. To build on our basic room clearing method, we
introduce the reorganization phase.
Once the structure is cleared and dominated, the team leader
orders a reorganization. At that point, the momentum slows and more tasks
begin. Suspects and occupants can be restrained and searched as needed. Detailed
searches for evidence and/or weapons begin. Occupants may be centralized for
better control during these operations. The team leaders circulate to ensure
key tasks are being attended to.
From there, two more tactical options are presented: split
stack and large scale stack. The split stack method is used when encountering a
room with multiple doorways. The class tries two variations. The first version
places a cover man to hold a door while the stack clears rooms adjoining the other
door. When one side is cleared, the movement reverses to clear rooms from the
door being held. The second version involves splitting the stack at the room,
then clearing both sides simultaneously. The final session of the morning
allows all members in the class to participate in a single large stack on the
entire shoot house.
After the lunch break, students are back on the flat range
for some basic drills for an officer down during room combat. Having a basic
yet flexible plan in these circumstances is better than no plan or one with rigid
roles. Students work in four-man elements as well as team rope drills. The
concept is a balance of neutralizing the threat, accessing the injured officer,
and maintaining the momentum of the raid. Some classes have requested agent
rescue training to be included during this block. This method is designed as an
emergency option to gain access to an agent that has been compromised during a
The final block of training is the emergency assault
challenge. This is an added event that encompasses many of the skills learned
and puts them against the clock. With its roots coming from the original
Tactical Explosive Entry School, our version simulates having to ‘fight’ your
way to a stronghold and clear three rooms. Students are grouped in teams of
four or six each. On the go signal, half the team moves to barricade wall and
engages knock-down targets.
When all targets are down, the other half of the team moves
to its barricade and knock-down targets. When cleared, they will come together
to clear three ‘rooms’ with paper targets. A five-second penalty is added for
missed verbal signals, errors in the team flow sequence, or bypassed targets
without a solid hit. Most teams average in the 45-second range to complete the
course. While being a lot of fun to run and gun, this event is a great training
aid as it really drives home core doctrine.
With current budget restraints and financial woes, agencies
are will be required to handle more situations on their own. Certain operations
that were traditionally handled by a SWAT team, such as a low-level drug
warrant or apprehending a fugitive, may now have to be done without SWAT or
with only a few members of the tactical team. This sort of course will help
make graduates more effective, and ensure their safety as well.
Ron Yanor is retired
after a 25-year law enforcement career. He spent 19 years on a 22-operator,
multi-jurisdictional tactical unit, with nine years as the training and intel
officer. Since 1999, he has been a contract trainer and currently operates
Adamax Tactical Academy in Illinois. He is also on the staff of Tactical
Energetic Entry Systems.