Law enforcement tactics 101

Law enforcement tactics are something that every officer learns in training.  Safety is the ultimate focus of tactical training – safety for law enforcement officers, crime victims, the suspect and bystanders.  In using the correct tactics, an officer enhances their ability to do their job in a capable and professional manner and avoids reprimands and legal issues that can result from improperly conducting searches and arrests, using weapons and subduing unruly suspects, among other law enforcement issues.

Law enforcement tactics cover everything from dealing with drunk drivers, to chasing down and tackling suspects, to intensive SWAT team incidents. 

Some of the law enforcement tactics that officers train for are gunfight training for extreme close quarters target engagement; law enforcement patrol rifle gunfight training; tactical arrest and restraint; empty hand combat; and multiple target engagement.  Officers generally hope they never have to use these skills, but if they ever face a serious conflict situation on the street or during an emergency call, these skills can save their life and the lives of innocent civilians.

SWAT team members learn critical incident law enforcement tactics such as rappelling, sharpshooting and hostage negotiations.  They learn how to use specialized firearms including sniper rifles, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and stun grenades.

Law enforcement tactics have been modified considerably since the Columbine shootings in 1999.  Prior to that event, patrol law enforcement had limited authority to actively engage shooters when the public was involved due to concerns about causing injuries to hostages and civilians.  They were only authorized to secure the perimeter and call for SWAT team backup in the event of a hostage situation, bank robbery or a school event like Columbine where there was the potential for mass civilian casualties. 

Because it took so long for a SWAT team to be mobilized to the Columbine shootings, multiple casualties took place that might have been averted had patrol law enforcement been allowed them to enter the building and fire on the shooters.  Today, the law enforcement tactics for these situations authorize them to call for back up and enter the building to engage with firearms if they can do so to reduce or prevent casualties.

There’s no doubt that law enforcement tactics will continue to evolve as new weapons and methods of averting crime and violence are developed to meet the challenges of a changing society.

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