Police Academy: The Keys to Defusing Potential Violence is Talking and Tactics

In our last class of the Citizen Police Academy, we learned about hostage negotiators and SWAT.

Why do we need hostage negotiators and SWAT teams?

That’s the question that was posed to us during our last Citizen Police Academy class on Wednesday.

The answer was simple: Because people do bad – unlawful – things.

Violence is everywhere, whether you believe it or not, and ignorance is not bliss. Police officers must be prepared to face violence in any given place at all times.

However, there are two parts in bringing a situation under control. And that is partly why law enforcement established Hostage Negotiation teams (HNT) and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams.

Both branches of law enforcement were created in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a way to address civil unrest, such as the Watts Riots of 1965 and the Attica Prison Riots of 1975.

Hostage negotiation is all about talking with suspects to prevent violence while SWAT deals with tactical methods to get suspects to stop what they're doing.

Officer Sal Sandoval, a hostage negotiator with Newark Police Department, said hostage negotiation can often prevent a situation from becoming more hostile.

Hostage negotiators are often called out to SWAT calls and suicide attempts.

Newark and Union City have been operating as a 24-member team for about two years.

To be on the Newark SWAT team, members must pass numerous tests, including physical exams that require them to run a mile in 12 minutes, do 40 push ups and 40 sit ups within 2 minutes and do two pull ups wearing 60 pounds of gear.

A SWAT team consists of various types of members: tactical commanders, team leaders, snipers/observers and operators.

SWAT teams are often called out to assist when officers execute high-risk search warrants, deal with barricaded subjects, hostage rescues and crimes like murder.

Their goal is to establish a plan to safely execute warrants without jeopardizing anyone's safety. 

Hostage negotiation teams must work in correlation with tactics, officers said.

Strenuous training is conducted for SWAT throughout the year. Newark SWAT members train with Union City monthly and each year, SWAT officers participate in Urban Shield, a 72-hour training session in which law enforcement, fire officials and emergency medical personnel train together.

Their objectives, as outlined by the Urban Shield website, is to:

  • Test communication and management capabilities with a focus on emergency operation centers within the region.
  • Integrate critical infrastructure and their onsite private security personnel to test public/private sector emergency plans and unified response.
  • Evaluate regional fire, search and rescue, response capabilities with a focus on core competencies.
  • Evaluate regional explosive ordnance disposal team’s response capabilities.
  • Evaluate regional tactical capabilities related to a variety of terrorist threat.

For more information on SWAT, click here

Mona Taplin October 29, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Wow! Great article Nika. It does give us a little better insite in how our police work for us.


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