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Warrant Service Tactics Course

Written by Ron Yanor

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 breaks down.

Day One

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 room combat.

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 start.

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 the room.

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 vision.

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 the wall.

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 the offset.

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

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 door opens.

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 stale.

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 themselves.

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.

Day Three

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 buy.

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.

Published in Law and Order, Jun 2014

Rating : 8.0


Comments

Comment on This Article

Disagree

By Ron Yanor

I totally disagree. Surround and call out allows occupants time to prepare defenses/barricades, access weapons or destroy evidence. Maybe semi-dynamic better describes the method. It in now way places finances over safety. In fact, just the opposite. The tactics are steeped in officer safety and offers more protection than flood or free flow methods. Rooms are cleared in succession. It is recognized that many detectives, drug units and task forces are called on to do their own warrant service. This course provides them sound methodology.

Submitted Nov 7 at 6:42 PM

Wrong mindset

By Ben Carroll

Narcotics, Street Crimes, Warrant Service Units, should not be conducting "Dynamic Entries" unless it is for an Active Shooter. This is probably a great class; however, the mindset that budget restraints should place an officer in needless jeopardy by conducting "dynamic entries" places finance over safety. These units need to employ the tactic of "surround and call-out", if the suspect(s) fail to exit, then you know his/her intention is to resist. At this point call SWAT. "Dynamic Entry" is a tactic of the last resort, and only used by SWAT for Hostage Rescue and Active Shooters. Street officers employ this tactic in "Active Shooter" incidents only.

Submitted Jul 11 at 1:13 PM

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