Local News

SWAT Teams Depend on Practice, Practice, Practice

Posted December 20, 2006

— Any police raid is dangerous. Officers have to make decisions in a split second as they deal with people who they hope did not expect to see them and who they are sure would rather not see them.

The dangerous job is usually given to specially trained squads. They go by different names in different places. SWAT, derived from “special weapons and tactics,” is perhaps the most widely known term.

Whatever they are called, however, the officers train hard to hone skills they need to do their jobs effectively—and safely.

Wednesday, the Wake County Sheriff's Special Response Team practiced entering a building. The exercise was part of the hours and hours of training and planning that deputies say it takes to get it right.

Clearly, getting ready for a raid is about more than checking weapons and putting on protective gear, and it starts well beforehand.

“Who do I have coming? Who am I going after? What am I doing?” are the questions that Deputy John Vaughn said are essential.

Pre-raid planning involves learning about the suspect, the surroundings and making a game plan.

“We have a protocol at the sheriff's office; we're not going to run out the door with our hair on fire. We're going to sit down and do a lot of research—all we can,” said Lt. Robert Windsor, SRT leader.

“You still don’t know who’s on the other side of the door. And what helps us is knowing that we are prepared to meet that threat,” Windsor said.

“Hopefully, the person will listen to the commands and you don’t have to resort to the next level of violence, which none of us want. None of us wants to do that,” Vaughn said.

Some people have been questioning how teams like Windsor’s work since a New Hanover County SWAT team raid in Wilmington ended with the death of a Durham teenager earlier this month.

The Wake County deputies say their jobs all come down to training.

Each county has different protocols and policies about when and how to use SWAT teams.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison formed his team in August of 2003. Most of their missions involved people barricaded in their homes and occasional hostage situations.

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Justis Dec 21, 2006

    I never said he was a saint. And he wasn't shot while he was robbing someone. He was shot, unarmed, in his own home.

    I'm just tired of cops being /above/ the law. I understand they have a tough job to do. And if I need help, 'yer damn right' they are the first ones I will call.

    If the officer admitted it was an accident, why is that not even considered manslaughter?

  • HighRiskCO Dec 21, 2006

    "Feel better about Peyton Strickland's death?" This criminal had comitted ARMED ROBBERY and had an open warrant for his arrest. Yes, it's unfortunate that this young man had to die. But nevertheless, he made to ultimate decision to comitt this crime and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

  • walkermr Dec 21, 2006

    Since when did a kid who robs peoples become a saint? If you rob people and get shot, it called the price of doing business.

  • Justis Dec 21, 2006

    Is this story supposed to make us all feel better about Peyton's death?

    "Pre-raid planning involves learning about the suspect, the surroundings and making a game plan"

    I wonder how much "pre-raid planning" there was in /that/ case? Obviously not enough, eh?