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Rethinking SWAT.

The April issue featured the magazine's first Sound Off column, entitled "Rethinking SWAT," by Lt. Tom Gabor of the Culver City, California, Police Department. In the column, Lieutenant Gabor acknowledged that SWAT is an indispensable component of modern policing. At the same time, however, he questioned the need for allocating scarce resources to municipal SWAT units in light of county-wide or regional mutual aid agreements. Lieutenant Gabor also encouraged administrators to reassess the need for SWAT callouts, suggesting that many situations that now result in SWAT deployment could be adequately resolved by patrol units.

This Sound Off generated a significant amount of reader feedback. The majority of readers who responded agreed with the author's position. However, readers did express some dissenting opinions.

Corp. C. Carter of the Barstow, California, Police Department concurred with aspects of the column, agreeing that "there are many situations in which patrol officers can get the job done without the need for a SWAT team." At the same time, he expressed concern that "administrators facing budget constraints will use this-type of thinking and place the lives of officers and innocents in danger, unnecessarily." Corporal Carter elaborates, "SWAT is like the pistol we carry .... We don't want or expect to have to use it every day, but when we need it, we need it now and we want it to work. I think Lieutenant Gabor is on the right track in spirit. [However], rather than rethink SWAT, let's think of how we can take a valuable resource and expand upon it."

Other readers disagreed with the author's assertion that effective protection could be maintained with a reduction in municipal SWAT units. Lt. Lee D. Rossman of the West Covina, California, Police Department doubts that eliminating SWAT would produce significant savings, because many SWAT units around the Nation already work within very limited budget constraints--"some to the point where team members buy their own equipment and train on their own time." Referring to the author's overall premise, Lieutenant Rossman expressed concern that "the research was very limited .... I would suggest that he attend a National Tactical Officer's Association Conference and learn from SWAT Units throughout the country what their SWAT Units actually do."

Pointing out that county law enforcement agencies face the same budget constraints as municipal departments, Sgt. Kevin C. Rohrer, Patrol Division Supervisor and Tactical Unit Leader of the Medina County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department, cautions against "dumping critical incidents in your local sheriff's lap." Although supporting the concept of regionalization in general, Sergeant Rohrer advises agencies to analyze their specific circumstances carefully before disbanding SWAT teams. Agencies should consider "jurisdictional problems" and "response times," as well as other factors, when making any decision regarding reallocation of SWAT resources. Sergeant Rohrer also cautions against an over-reliance upon patrol: "The melting pot of patrol is not the place we can expect to randomly draw people capable of dealing with all situations .... Having the services of a small, cohesive group of highly trained and equipped, experienced individuals is the best bet for resolving critical incidents. And that group can only be SWAT."

Feedback provides a forum for reader responses to Sound Off, a column in which criminal justice pr express alternative views on accepted practices or address emerging, and perhaps controversial, issu The thoughts expressed in these responses are strictly those of the writers and do not necessarily r opinions of their departments or the FBI.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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