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The CLeaR Concept

I don’t believe there is a street cop anywhere who hasn’t stood in the aftermath of a poorly run operation and asked himself, “Why The Face?”


Often times, their wrath is justifiably directed at the supervisors who had just failed the leadership challenge they had so obviously not prepared for. While there are many critical events that test a patrol supervisor’s mettle, barricades and hostage taking should not be two of the problems that catch you completely by surprise. These are events, however rare, that can and should be predictably planned for.


When I say, “planned for,” I don’t just mean we call SWAT and then kick back with a donut and a cup of Joe waiting for the boys in green to come save the day. If our adversaries would only give their word of honor to wait the hour or so it takes SWAT to arrive and deploy, we might be okay with donuts and coffee. Unfortunately, adversaries have a will of their own, and they tend to exercise it at the most inopportune moments. That being said, it’s time to introduce a tried and true tactical concept to the patrol level first responders (C-CLeaR pronounced See Clear).


Thanks in large part to the California Association of Tactical Officers, the CLeaR concept has been widely taught and utilized by SWAT teams throughout


. It’s time now to bring that same concept, with one slight modification, to line officers.



C-CLeaR is an acronym that stands for Command Post, Containment, Long Rifle, and React Team. These simple four words can do wonders to help law enforcement, at any level, begin to gain some measure of control over critical events such as barricades and hostage situations. What these four words do is serve as reminders for actions that should be taken immediately, by responding officers, when they determine that one of the above two situations exist.


Command Post

The extra “C” for command post was added to teaching the CLeaR concept after witnessing to many critical events being run without an effective command post in place. Unfortunately, there are far too many in law enforcement with an extremely limited knowledge of what a command post is, what it does, or how it should be organized.


Often times, a command post is comprised only of a supervisor standing in close proximity to a radio; thinking he is in command of events, yet only vaguely aware of the people and forces in play all around him. In too many of these cases, events unfold with little to no situational awareness on the part of the decision makers, resulting in haphazard, poorly thought out, or delayed decisions that often lead to unanticipated, undesired or unfavorable outcomes.



While an in depth discussion of command post operations is beyond the scope of this article, some discussion is definitely merited. A CP (Command Post) is utilized by an incident commander (typically the patrol Sergeant or Lieutenant) to plan, direct, coordinate and control the operations of his forces.


In essence, the CP is the central nervous system of a critical incident. That means intelligence, operations, and logistics are all managed and controlled by, or through, the CP and its personnel. That requires that ALL information come into, be tracked, or be relayed from the CP. In order to accomplish that sometimes Herculean task, your CP cannot be staffed by just one man and a radio.


Obviously, the CP may begin that way, but when dealing with hostage/barricade situations, it would definitely behoove the patrol supervisor to begin spooling up as rapidly as possible. If you want to succeed at running an effective CP, grab as many people as possible to help, and then begin delegating. If you try to run the entire show yourself, you will quickly find yourself being overwhelmed by events. In the past I’ve used parking enforcement officers, explorers, officers, detectives, or other supervisors to help with the myriad of tasks required at a CP.


At the top of that list is organizing the people, equipment, and resources you have available.


Whether you have a next generation CP vehicle with all the bells and whistles, or a #2 pencil and a pad of paper, start writing information down where you can visually reference it! A critical requirement for any CP is that its key decision maker (usually the Incident Commander) have and maintain situational awareness. That means a complete understanding of the significance and relationships of every facet of the operation. The only way that is possible is to track, collect, and display all the vital information pertaining to your event.




This is one thing that nearly all law enforcement officers do fairly well. Given any type of problem, it’s second nature for most departments to set up at least an inner, and many times an outer, containment. When it comes to hostage/barricades, you want both. The inner containment is to control and contain the immediate problem. The outer perimeter is to limit who else enters into your area of operations (vehicles, peds, lookie lews, the press etc).


A few common sense things to remember: always cover all four sides of the problem, even it there appears to be no way out of one of those sides. None of us should be surprised at the lengths some people will go to avoid capture. Punching a hole through a wall, climbing out onto a roof, or getting into a basement or crawl space may result in the suspect suddenly exiting in an area previously thought “impossible.” Better to cover all four sides and be sure.



Whether you use a letter or a number system, give the four sides of a building an identifier rather than referring to it by a cardinal direction (i.e. north, south, etc). Typically, the front side of the building is called the 1 side, then clockwise its 2, 3, and 4 side. This makes it easy for everyone involved, which often includes outside agencies that may be uncertain which direction is north or south, to easily determine which side of the building is being referenced. Just ensure that the CP clearly announces to all containment positions which side of the building is going to be designated the 1 side.


Long Rifle

When we talk about Long Rifles, what leaps to most minds are snipers. Those ghillie suited ninjas with scoped long guns taking a precision shot from incredible distances. If you have one of those guys in patrol, great, use him.


Even if you don’t have one, what you will often have is an officer with some type of patrol rifle. In many departments, you will find an AR or M16 platform floating around the patrol fleet, or even issued to every officer. Whatever rifle platform you have or scrounge up, this is what you want in the over watch position on the primary exit/surrender/attack point (usually the 1 side).


In the patrol setting, the Long Rifle is the man with the training and equipment to decisively end the threat, should the need arise. Whether the suspect takes containment under fire, exits the structure and aggresses the officers, or presents an immediate threat to the hostage, a rifle caliber weapon in the hands of a trained patrol officer can be a game stopper.


As manpower allows, try to keep your long rifle separate from your containment teams. There is a tendency in police work to “double up” on duties (i.e. making the one side containment also the Long Rifle). This may work as long as the suspect does not begin causing problems on some other side of the building. At that point, your Long Rifle becomes useless as he cannot move or adjust his position to address the problem. In addition, it is usually a good idea to give the long rifle a “spotter” to go with him. Not only can a spotter with a pair of binos provide valuable intelligence to the CP, he can act as radio operator and security for the long rifle.


React Team

In critical incidents such as hostage/barricades, a React Team can be the difference between a successful resolution and one of those abysmal failures mentioned earlier. In a nutshell, a React Team is a group of officers tasked with REACTing to whatever the suspect might do. This team is distinct from the containment teams, and must be staffed with the tools and personnel needed to accomplish the mission. What does that mean exactly?


Well, it depends on the problem. If it’s a hostage situation, you will certainly need enough people and equipment to pull off an emergency assault should that become necessary. If the suspect is hunkered down inside a studio apartment with a hollow core door, the number of officers, and type of equipment needed, will be less than if he is inside a 2,500 square foot home with multiple rooms and metal security gates.


Out of the tools commonly available to patrol, a good basic load out might include entry tools (if hostage related), less lethal weapons, a K9 team, bullhorn, and a shield. With the name reflecting the mission, the next step for any React team is to start war gaming what “might” occur during their particular problem.


If it is a hostage problem, you will absolutely need an emergency assault plan. A highly risky mission, it is utilized only in circumstances where patrol must act to save the hostages from immediate harm. Emergency assault plans can vary in size and complexity but the basics are how, where, and who will make entry, and what will you do once you get inside to rescue the hostages.


Aside from those rare hostage occasions, I find that planning for what is historically predictable is always a decent place to start for most problems. In that golden hour or so before SWAT shows up, a React team might want to throw together some quick plans for the following basics.


Surrender is the most common occurrence and should be simple, but also well thought out. Who is giving the commands, where are you directing the suspect, who is covering him, who is cuffing?


As for Escape, what will you do if the suspect walks out but won’t surrender, what if he comes out running, what if he comes out a different side or tries to make it to a nearby vehicle, etc etc? There are a lot of possible variations on this theme. Make your plans flexible so you can adapt them to the various circumstances you encounter.


For Offensive actions, the best time to plan for the suspect bringing the fight to us is before he does it! Again, there are a lot of potential scenarios, but taking fire from inside a structure, having the suspect exit firing, and man down drills should be some of the obvious plans you want to consider.


The Other category is where I lump everything else into. Depending on what you encounter, there are occasionally scenarios involving barricades/hostages that are so unusual that they are difficult to contemplate before actually facing them. Your particular situation might call for some innovative thinking or outside the box ideas. If you see something shaping up that way, start gaming out how you will handle it BEFORE it actually becomes a reality. The immortal words of that law enforcement icon, Clint Eastwood, may serve as a guide in these situations, “Adapt, improvise, and overcome.”

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2013

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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