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.
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).
in large part to the California Association of Tactical Officers, the CLeaR
concept has been widely taught and utilized by SWAT teams throughout California. It’s time
now to bring that same concept, with one slight modification, to line
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”