SWAT and Tactical Teams have the same communications requirements as Strike Teams along with a few additional special needs. So first, if you haven't already, read our recommendations regarding
Strike Team Communications.
In addition to those needs, Tactical/SWAT/Negotiation teams have three additional special needs:
1. Encrypted Radios. This is partly motivated by a desire to deny the news media and other scanner-monitors the ability to overhear inter-team communications, and partly motivated by a sincere and legitimate need for clear communications at all times without any possibility of interruption. Since split-second timing is often important, as is covert placement of various team members, radio communications need to be silent most of the time and then instantly available to coordinate entry or insertion. Even a slight delay or the inadvertent reveal of a hidden team member can be life-threatening for the officers.
Naturally we also recommend that these encrypted portable radios meet other requirements for a field radio, which you can see in our
Best Practices document. National Interop can sell, or recommend, a variety of encrypted radios, and advise you on the appropriate encryption given your tactical team’s mission profile and OA.
2. Simplex Communication Over Distance. In many deployments, the perimeter team takes up stations around the target as much as _ of mile away. These perimeter teams need to stay in touch with each other, but also with the team leadership which may still be enroute or may be located at an incident command post with other agencies. Team members prefer to stay on the same radio, on the same channel, throughout the deployment so switching between a repeater system (which is unlikely to be encrypted, see #1 above, and also likely to be busy) and a simplex channel is undesirable.
We recommend two dedicated [Tactical Repeaters] preferably permanently installed, one in the SWAT Team truck (that carries other heavy equipment and weapons) and another in a second SWAT vehicle always sent to incidents (e.g. pickup truck, SUV, patrol car).
We then design the Tactical Repeaters to be interlinked, and thus provide sufficient coverage area throughout the deployment area. We recommend a protocol where the second vehicle deploys with the perimeter team, and the other team vehicle remains in the command post area.
3. Interoperability. This requirement isn’t so obvious, since the protocol for most tactical teams is to assume control of a situation and execute on an agreed objective, with the team relying upon its training and practice as a team to complete the mission effectively and safely. In fact, for most scenarios the tactical team will rightly avoid interoperability, and operate on an isolated channel for safety and effectiveness (as described in the #1 requirement above).
But there are exceptions to every rule, and the two exceptions that require interoperability for a tactical team are:
First, when a hostage/barricade scenario extends beyond a reasonable length of time for the first tactical team, and they need to be relieved. Or the more tragic case, when critical injuries or fatalities are sustained by the first tactical team and they require backup and extraction.
Second, when the area of operation grows larger than any single tactical team can contain, such as when the suspects evade capture and are moving within a large neighborhood. In both of these types of scenario, backup will be coming from another tactical team, regular duty officers from the same agency, or from another agency such as a federal or state agency.
In all of these cases, it is highly likely that the radios will be incompatible, and worse, if the situation has degraded particularly with injured officers in the first tactical team, they may need to stay on their original frequency (encrypted, simplex, isolated from other agencies).
In this case the tactical team leader needs to be able to flick a switch in their vehicle (in the best case, in any of several appropriately equipped vehicles) to link the dedicated, encrypted tactical frequency with the other frequencies used by the backup officers (and EMS, and Fire, as appropriate). The technology for this type of limited, instantly effected interoperability is available and trivial to use. We can recommend specific products and also provide training and written protocols on the conditions for its use.
National Interop works with a number of tactical and special mission law enforcement teams, and we are happy to consult with you on your needs.
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