How Swat Teams Work


Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know, from HowStuffWorks.com.

Josh Clark: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark and Charles Chuck Bryant's with me, as usual. It just wouldn't be the same if he weren't.

Chuck Bryant: That's what I hear.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Thankfully for me.

Josh Clark: And me.

Chuck Bryant: Aw. Sweetie!

Josh Clark: So that means this is Stuff You Should Know, right, Chuck? The podcast, the legend lives on.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, we thought about a name change recently, but we figured we'd just stick with it.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Stuff You Should Know.

Josh Clark: Yes. We thought about a name change?

Chuck Bryant: I just made that up.

Josh Clark: Oh, okay. I was going to say, you never CC me on these e-mails any more.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So, Chuck, has a SWAT team ever raided your house?

Chuck Bryant: No. I did have a cop come to my door one time in Athens though.

Josh Clark: For what?

Chuck Bryant: I don't know why actually. I don't remember. I just remember being woken up and there was a cop at the door and I can't remember exactly why he was coming by. It was a mistake, clearly, but I also, you know, didn't fully open the door, if you know what I'm saying.

Josh Clark: Right. You don't - are you making air quotes that you don't remember? And that is was a mistake?

Chuck Bryant: It really was. I don't - I honestly don't remember why he showed up. I just remember thinking, oh, I'm just going to crack the door here and see what this cop wants.

Josh Clark: Have you ever been arrested?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Really?

Chuck Bryant: Does that surprise you?

Josh Clark: A little bit, yeah. I mean you went to college in Athens. You lived in LA for a while, I mean.

Chuck Bryant: I did get shaken down in front of the Georgia Theatre one night, like against the wall, frisked, for no reason.

Josh Clark: [Inaudible] the buzz. They're always shaking people down.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I mean they literally had no reason. They put all of our friends up against the wall. Like stopped the car and just jumped out and as we were leaving the show.

Josh Clark: I think Georgia Theatre, being in the vicinity of it, was probable cause under law in Athens.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it was weird. And then they just left, as soon as they came, they just like left. It was so odd.

Josh Clark: Well luckily for you, you didn't die of a heart attack.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: You weren't shot in the chest.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: You weren't shot three times.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Had it been a SWAT team that shook you down or came to your door, all of these things may have happened.

Chuck Bryant: I might have been too tapped.

Josh Clark: Yeah, yeah. What SWAT teams are, Chuck, we should probably get to that finally, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: SWAT teams are specially trained and specially equipped and armed divisions of police departments.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Heavily armed!

Josh Clark: Very. Yeah, a lot of their stuff is cobbled together through military surplus.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I didn't realize that.

Josh Clark: I didn't either.

Chuck Bryant: Pretty cool.

Josh Clark: That's to the Grabster, who wrote yet another fine article.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, he's one of the faves around here.

Josh Clark: He is, he's a good guy. And ironically neither one of us have ever met him.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: No. I have no idea what he looks like, have you?

Chuck Bryant: I do. Yeah, I don't want to spoil it for you though.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I don't like doing that. I like keeping like a non-image, or - I see him with a beard. Does he have a beard?

Chuck Bryant: He does, but we get that a lot when people see pictures of us. They write in and to express their displeasure, which is always nice.

Josh Clark: Yeah, we're obtuse.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah. Special Weapons and Tactics, Josh, is the name now, but what was it originally?

Josh Clark: Special Weapons Attack Team.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. They realized that was a little too aggressive sounding.

Josh Clark: A little bit, yeah. So the guy who came up with the original name, Special Weapons Attack Team, was a guy named Darryl Gates, who was Police Chief of LAPD for a very very long time. While you were there, in fact!

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: Were you there during the Rodney King incident and ensuing riots?

Chuck Bryant: No, my brother was though.

Josh Clark: Yeah?

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: Was he anywhere near like South Central?

Chuck Bryant: Well it happened all over. He saw - he was in the area of the riots.

Josh Clark: Really?

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: Wow.

Chuck Bryant: And, you know, clearly stayed in his apartment.

Josh Clark: Okay, so you're brother's not Reginald Denny?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Good.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that would be bad.

Josh Clark: I hope that guy's doing all right.

Chuck Bryant: But - yeah, me too. But Gates didn't actually invent the SWAT team. He's falsely credited with that though.

Josh Clark: Yeah. He did champion the idea. I get the impression that a friend of his or somebody lower on - of I should say higher on the totem pole came up with that idea.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: And being in a position of authority, he was still a high ranking officer then, although not yet Police Chief, Gates said, this is a great idea.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: So he assembled the world's first SWAT team, or at the very least the United State's first SWAT team.

Chuck Bryant: LAPD, leading the way, as usual.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: They also brought us bribery, corruption, planting weapons.

Josh Clark: Brutality.

Chuck Bryant: Brutality, yeah. A lot of stuff! A long history of bad things.

Josh Clark: Sure, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But they've cleaned it up though I think now.

Josh Clark: Have they?

Chuck Bryant: Supposedly.

Josh Clark: They - every decade they've cleaned it up and then something horrible happens when they've cleaned it up. And then 50 horrible things happen. But again, they are credited with coming up with the first SWAT team in America. That was 1967.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So they sat around for two years and waited until an organization known as the Black Panthers did not want the LAPD to enter when they cam a-knocking on some gun warrants at their headquarters.

Chuck Bryant: Yup, that was one of their first encounters. That and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Josh Clark: Right. I actually read accounts of these, these two things.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: The Black Panther standoff in '69, and the SLA standoff in '74 were days long.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Right? They - in the SLA standoff they shot tear gas into the house. Nothing. They just returned fire.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Everybody either died of gunshot wounds or burned in the first.

Chuck Bryant: Jeez.

Josh Clark: The Black Panthers all made it out alive, but this was after several days too, and in both cases both sides fired several thousand rounds at one another.

Chuck Bryant: Wow. That's a serious standoff.

Josh Clark: So, yeah, and this is - it definitely remains in the mentality of the LAPD SWAT team, because they have an unofficial patch that has 41 and 54. The Black Panthers headquarter where the standoff took place was at 41st Street.

Chuck Bryant: Ahh.

Josh Clark: And then the SLA standoff was at 54th and I think Compton Avenue. So they have 41 and 54 because -

Chuck Bryant: Constant reminder.

Josh Clark: Yeah, exactly. I mean like this created - at the very least it showed the world that you do need SWAT teams.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

F: Because up to this point, before the SWAT teams were created, any officer who came up on a scene was expected to resolve the problem.

Chuck Bryant: Sure, with, you know, I mean I wouldn't say minimal fire arms, but certainly not specially equipped.

F: No.

Chuck Bryant: Gear and ammo.

F: Right. And then in 1975 the - I don't remember what network it was on, but SWAT came out. The cop show about SWAT teams!

Chuck Bryant: Bob Urich.

F: Oh, was he in it?

Chuck Bryant: Oh yeah.

F: I never saw it. I saw the horrible, horrible remake, the movie version.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I didn't see that. With Sam Jackson and Colin Farrell! I didn't see that.

Josh Clark: That's a deadly combination.

Chuck Bryant: Now was that a remake or was it just -

Josh Clark: It's like drinking water in rural Mexico, but in movie form, you know.

Chuck Bryant: What, Sam Jackson and Colin Farrell?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Sam Jackson's almost a parody of himself at this point.

Josh Clark: Yeah. He has been the whole time. We just didn't catch on at first.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, is that what it was?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Gotcha. So let's talk a little bit about how many there are in the country. Supposedly there are about 1200 SWAT teams in the United States and 90 percent of police forces in cities of 50,000 or more have some kind of SWAT team.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Not bad.

Josh Clark: No, not at all.

Chuck Bryant: And 70 percent in smaller towns.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Which is - pretty much everybody, I think there's 1200.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, roughly.

Josh Clark: An estimated 1200 across the country. In some cities, smaller towns, have kind of gotten together with other nearby smaller towns -

Chuck Bryant: Sure, that makes sense.

Josh Clark: - and have been like, hey, we'll throw in a few SWAT team members and some equipment, you guys do the same, we'll have a regional SWAT team.

Chuck Bryant: Right, I've got two point men if you've got a sniper.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And they'll just combine the forces.

Josh Clark: It's like selecting Harry Potter trading cards. Except with real life SWAT team members!

Chuck Bryant: Right. I never thought about that.

Josh Clark: So what do they use these people for, Chuck? This elite group of tactically trained, heavily armed, paramilitary police officers!

Chuck Bryant: Well, Josh, there's quite a few scenarios. A high risk warrant, obviously, if they're going to serve a warrant to a known violent felon who may have a gun or armament.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: They want to bring in the SWAT team.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: Any kind of hostage situation or barricade situation, obviously. A high risk person is when someone needs to be transported, like some nasty serial killer.

Josh Clark: Hill?

Chuck Bryant: Sure, Henry Hill. And obviously terrorist attacks or riots you call in the SWAT team.

Josh Clark: Yeah,

Chuck Bryant: Or the riot crew, which we should do - this made me want to do one on riot control, actually. We should do that at some point.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Cracking heads.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, is that how they do it?

Josh Clark: Cracking hippies' heads, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Hippies.

Josh Clark: We should do that because we could talk about the Battle for Seattle in 1999.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, my friend was there.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I think you said that, inciting the riot, throwing bricks and Molotov cocktails or something.

Chuck Bryant: No, he had funny signs that he held up, like Simpson's references and stuff. Our kind of guy!

Josh Clark: All right. So look for riot control coming up, right?

Chuck Bryant: Indeed.

Josh Clark: Well Chuck, there's about 40,000 SWAT raids in the U.S. every years.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's a lot, isn't it?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I didn't realize that.

Josh Clark: It's growing and growing. In the last 25 years it's increased 1300 percent.

Chuck Bryant: Now is that because they're a little more trigger happy or because there's more SWAT guys or because there's more situations that need it, or all three probably?

Josh Clark: It's probably all three, plus a little bit of looser Federal funding coming in than there ever was before now that the Department of Homeland Security is around.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: They have deep pockets.

Chuck Bryant: So a police station might say, wow, sure let's get that tank, since we have the dough.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Nice.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Although it's really not a tank. Well we should talk about that actually. A lot of times the vehicles are transformed into SWAT vehicles. So they'll take just like a delivery van and arm it, paint it black and throw some bat shields up on it and all of a sudden that's an armed vehicle.

Josh Clark: The, yeah, a lot of times it seized stuff.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Sometimes they use RVs.

Chuck Bryant: I love this part, go ahead, I know where you're going.

Josh Clark: Where it will be like a mobile command headquarters.

Chuck Bryant: They need that.

Josh Clark: And the reason it's so valuable is really obvious, but it's easy to overlook.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Because they have a bathroom.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I never - see in the movies you never see the hostage standoff where the guys says, I have to go take a leak.

Josh Clark: Yeah, you stay there waving your gun, don't shoot anybody while I'm gone.

Chuck Bryant: You never see anyone sneeze or go to the bathroom, anything like that unless it's important to the film.

Josh Clark: Right. And a lot of times they'll use these transports, though heavily armed, to like actually carry the SWAT team members into an assault.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: But it doesn't always work. In 1988 after German terrorists seized the Nakatomi building in Los Angeles, the LAPD SWAT team used their heavily armored vehicle to try to breach the door to the building.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And they were fired upon by the terrorist using a rocket launcher, which I think killed or inured everyone inside.

Chuck Bryant: Schiess die Fenster.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Ask me what that means.

Josh Clark: What does that mean?

Chuck Bryant: Shoot the glass.

Josh Clark: Okay. Thanks.

Chuck Bryant: If no one out there realizes that we're talking clearly about the movie Die Hard and -

Josh Clark: Wha?

Chuck Bryant: Then you really need to get out more.

Josh Clark: Or at least rent more movies.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, absolutely.

Josh Clark: All right, Chuck. Let's get down to basics here, dude.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: We've gotten so far afield it's ridiculous.

Chuck Bryant: Have we?Josh Clark: No not really.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Not as bad as we did that with whole G.I. Joe tirade and ninja!

Chuck Bryant: True.

Josh Clark: Yeah. How do you become a SWAT team member?

Chuck Bryant: Well, Josh, there's different ways you can become a member. You obviously have to be a police officer. And many times you can volunteer if you just want the extra action and you feel like you

Josh Clark: Yeah, there's -

Chuck Bryant: After a couple of years of service.

Josh Clark: It's like a point in a police officer's career. Like you start out as rookie, you work the beat, you - you know, and then maybe at some point you're a detective and then after that a SWAT or maybe those are divergent, but yeah, on some forces you're expected to eventually be a SWAT member for a little while.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: On smaller scales SWAT team members will be regular police officers as well, or just driving around like looking for bad guys or whatever, and then there's a call out, which is what they're called.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And then they'll go and get their stuff and get ready, right?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: In places like LA, New York, their SWAT teams are like just SWAT members.

Chuck Bryant: 24/7.

Josh Clark: They train all the time. They're very well funded.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: Very heavily armed. And that is the SWAT team that we generally think of when we think of SWAT, right?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So how do they get to be this way? I mean clearly they're born bad asses, but they have to go through training, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and like you said, the training never ends when you're - it's kind of like being in the military. You don't stop training.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: You're constantly training because you've got to keep up the physical fitness. You should be an expert marksman, although it's not absolutely required.

Josh Clark: I think it is in a lot of - like the ones where their SWAT teams like 24/7, like you said, I think that they do require them to be such expert marksmen that they're automatically qualified to teach marksman courses.

Chuck Bryant: Right, I believe master marksman is the term we'

re looking formJosh Clark: Yeah, which makes sense?

Chuck Bryant: Sure. So what they do here, obviously, is set up scenarios to practice, you know, when you see in the movies when they have the fake city scene of the fake house and then the push the button and out comes the dummy of a bad guy with a gun.

Josh Clark: Like in Police Academy.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Or like out comes the dummy of a lady holding a child, and invariable in the movie that they shoot the lady by accident -

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: - and they have to start over.

Josh Clark: Waaa, waaa, waaa, waaa.

Chuck Bryant: That's really how it goes down though.

Josh Clark: It - yeah. Which makes a lot of sense, because as the Grabster points out in the article, sitting around and talking about what you should do is not really good training? You need high levels of training -

Chuck Bryant: Or computer Sims, they do that too.

Josh Clark: Which I think usually require you walking around with a gun as well.

Chuck Bryant: They do?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: I don't think it's just like a joy stick. I think you're in a room -

Chuck Bryant: Oh, sure.

Josh Clark: - where it simulates like the mannequins coming out -

Chuck Bryant: And you have a light gum.

Josh Clark: Yeah, but instead it's like all the characters from Sonic the Hedgehog.

Chuck Bryant: Gotcha.

Josh Clark: You know? So, Chuck, we've got gun training. There's often, well I shouldn't say often, in some cases, specifically with the LAPD, there is also a lot of hostage negotiation training as well.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And most places keep SWAT and hostage negotiation totally separate. They don't want them to mix. They actually probably want them to butt heads a little bit so that there's real discourse about whether or not to go in with guns blazing or to try to resolve the situation through negotiation.

Chuck Bryant: That makes sense.

Josh Clark: Right? But in the LAPD SWAT, every single one of them is a trained hostage negotiator that's qualified to take over negotiations as the lead negotiator.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's pretty cool.

Josh Clark: It is pretty cool. And that was multi-faceted.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that was one of my favourite podcasts we did too, about hostage negotiation. So these are closely tied segments of private law enforcement, I guess. I keep wanting to call it military, but -

Josh Clark: Well it's paramilitary. I mean they very much resemble military like teams.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: They have stealth reconnaissance team members.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: People who, you know, if they are getting some information about the layout of the house, maybe from the negotiator or if a hostage was let go or something like that. But they need more, they'll send a couple of guys in and they will drill a hole and put a pinhole camera in to keep an eye on the guy, to get more information about the house, that kind of stuff, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. They have snipers, obviously.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: They have anti-sniper snipers.

Josh Clark: Do they?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Because what if there's a sniper shooting at you?

Josh Clark: That - well wouldn't that just be a sniper?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, but they call them anti-sniper snipers.

Josh Clark: Well yeah, I guess that's true. Most snipers aren't just like some jerk walking around waving a gun inside of a house.

Chuck Bryant: True.

Josh Clark: Probably they're hard to hit.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Now what else do they have? Explosive guys, experts!

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Demolition, I guess you would call it.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Pretty cool.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So I mean this is not your average ordinary patrol guy who's going to pull you over for running a stop sign, right?

Chuck Bryant: No, definitely not.

Josh Clark: So, Chuck, we've kind of referred to it here and there, you know, there's like a guy waving a gun in a house or whatever.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: SWAT situations are generally where there is a standoff, like you said.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: To where there is a guy in a house, say he has hostages.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: He's barricaded himself inside.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: And he's not responding, right.

Chuck Bryant: That's -

Josh Clark: So the SWAT team is called out.

Chuck Bryant: Um-hum.

Josh Clark: The SWAT team apparently takes about an hour to assemble and make it to the scene, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, even though I think you mentioned that they can - they listen in on the police radio and if they hear of a scenario where they might be called, they'll go ahead and start loading the shotguns with shells and start getting ready just in case.

Josh Clark: Sure. Putting on the grease paint!

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark: The chicken blood across the forehead. Yeah. When they make it out, one of the first things they'll do apparently is come up with quick and dirty - I just made air quotes as you saw - contingency plan.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: In case this thing just falls apart right when they get there. They need to know how to get in and get as many people out as possible.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Neutralize the guy. Which is another word for kill?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark: And if they do have time, if the situation's what the cops call static, meaning the guy's responding with the negotiator, he's not shooting anybody yet. It's still a standoff but there's not - there's the element of time. They have time.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark: Then they're going to start planning, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's when you bring in the RV and that means you can us the bathroom if you want, and come up with a very, you know, safe plan. Because ideally I know the Grabster points out, even though these guys have a reputation as being very trigger happy, ideally you want to end it peacefully, even if you're a SWAT team member.

Josh Clark: So they're getting information from the hostage negotiator from any hostages that may be released, from their stealth guys, and they've decided that enough's enough, it's time for this guy to go down, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: So they've assembled, they know they've got their plan set. They've got all the information they need. And they go through the barricades, they go through the door. What does that look like if you're standing there and all of a sudden you're in the house.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: The door opens up, and in comes the SWAT team. What's going to happen?

Chuck Bryant: Well first thing first, you probably would not see 10 guys because they form what's called a snake. And that's why in the films you see - in the picture shows, you'll see them in a dead straight line, obviously because it minimizes the, you know, the targets -

Josh Clark: Right, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: - they can shoot at.

Josh Clark: The guy in front of that line is called the point man.

Chuck Bryant: A very brave person.

Josh Clark: Very brave, but also that guy has to be as cool as a cucumber under some of the highest amounts of stress a human being can go through.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: He has to be able to take in an entire situation in a split second and decide if that's a woman holding a baby, so don't shoot her. Because this isn't Police Academy!

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Or, you know, if that hot- if the guy has a gun, if it's pointed at them. What's going on exactly? And then act on this information in a really quick manner, right?

Chuck Bryant: I would be at the tail end of that snake if I was a SWAT guy.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I would still be in the bathroom.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, in the motor home?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure. Well, you know, also in the movies they get it right most times, is you'll see them come in in the single file and then immediately it seems like they all go to a designated spot in the room, almost as if they were trained to do so. And it's because they are.

Josh Clark: Yeah. They're called areas of responsibility.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they have it all planned out beforehand.

Josh Clark: Yeah, so you have like eight guys.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And they already know the layout of the room where they're entering and where the guy has the hostages, right?

Chuck Bryant: Exactly.

Josh Clark: They - each person has a portion of the room that they're responsible for. So the point man comes in and maybe his is dead ahead! The guy behind him is to the right in the little corner, the guy behind him is a little beyond that. So everybody's aiming at different parts of the room.

Chuck Bryant: Clear. Clear.

Josh Clark: And one they - right, exactly. And once they've noticed that their area of responsibility is clear, then they're going to train their gun on, you know, the guy who is the problem, right?

Chuck Bryant: Right. And they're also, we forgot to mention, generally a lot of yelling and screaming going on.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And maybe a, what's it called, a flash bang -

Josh Clark: Flash bang.

Chuck Bryant: - grenade.

Josh Clark: Yeah, because one of the things that they want to do is disorient and confuse the suspects.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, so you can shoot them.

Josh Clark: So you can shoot them in the head.

Chuck Bryant: Or, ideally, put them on the ground and cuff them.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: We have to say that, because that's really what they're after.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: We can't just say that they're kill crazy vengeance-minded thugs.

Josh Clark: No, and that's actually evidenced by the percentage of SWAT assaults that where not a single gunshot is fired, which is about 90 percent of them.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's pretty good.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I bet that 10 percent is pretty exciting though.

Josh Clark: It could be pretty bloody. Thousands of rounds of ammo!

Chuck Bryant

They also point out, or Ed does, rather, that when you have your area of responsibility, you plan this thing out, obviously, to go in and cover the room, but your point man, and actually everyone on the team is sort of like the quarterback coming to the line of scrimmage. When you do that in the NFL you see the defence and sometimes you have to change the play because the layout is changed or it's not exactly how you thought, or there were more guys in there than you thought.

Josh Clark: You don't want to be the guy who's like covering your empty corner which makes up your area of responsibility the whole time.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, you want to be Peyton Manning.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: At the line of scrimmage.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Except you have a gun.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Can we talk about the guns?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: This is my favourite part.

Josh Clark: Is it you, gun guy?

Chuck Bryant: No, neither one of us are, but we always go all giggly when we talk about these guns. I guess it's just being raised as kids watching the A-Team and stuff like that.

Josh Clark: I'm very excited.

Chuck Bryant: Because I'm not a gun guy at all. Both of us are little pansy Liberals.

Josh Clark: Yeah. I have a panty waist on right now.

Chuck Bryant: I know. But I love these guns.

Josh Clark: Yeah, sure.

Chuck Bryant: So equipment-wise, every officer has a nice reliable high-powered hand gun. First things first! Correct?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Which they usually wear lower on their leg for quick reach.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And then the holsters will be modified so that they can draw really fast. Although I imagine if you're going in, you already have your gun out.

Chuck Bryant: Right, sure.

Josh Clark: It think it's technically is to look kind of like Han Solo.

Chuck Bryant: Is that what it is?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And they also usually have a sub-machine gun and a shotgun and clearly they're not going to go in with all three. But they have a great amount of leeway with their own personal arsenal. They can pick out their own guns essentially.

Josh Clark: And a lot of times if you look at the SWAT arsenal, it's kind of ragtag and piecemeal. Because in addition to seizing delivery vans used for drugs, they also seize weapons from drug dealers. So one guy might have an Uzi, another guy might have an Heckler and Koch MP4 or something like that.

Chuck Bryant: And AK47.

Josh Clark: Yeah. A bazooka!

Chuck Bryant: Can I show you something - can I show you something cool? I got a picture for you.

Josh Clark: Oh, you even have it turned over so I couldn't see. Really, this is going to be good.

Chuck Bryant: I wanted to surprise you with this. In the article Ed talks about shotguns are clearly popular because you can not be too discerning with where you're aiming and still hit something. They can -

Josh Clark: I would think that you wouldn't want a shotgun in a SWAT hostage situation.

Chuck Bryant: Well, it depends on the situation.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: So I think that's why they pick their guns. But he pointed out that sometimes you can combine the shotgun with a machine gun.

Josh Clark: What?!

Chuck Bryant: Did you see that?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: The Knight Masterkey S. And I would love to be able to post this on the blog. But look at that bad boy.

Josh Clark: Holy cow!

Chuck Bryant: It is essentially - if you know guns, if you picture like and M-16 with a clip. Right in front of the clip is the front end of a shotgun without the barrel on it, attached to the gun.

Josh Clark: Right, it's like an M-16 with a grenade launcher attachment, but instead of the grenade launcher it has a shotgun.

Chuck Bryant: And I'm anti-gun. But I want - that's my new zombie defence weapon.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Yeah, I don't want to hurt anybody. But this does make me wish for a zombie apocalypse.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah, nice one.

Chuck Bryant: So that's the Masterkey S.

Josh Clark: That is the - are you going to hang that up in your cubicle?

Chuck Bryant: Well people might think I'm some creep. But that's not the case.

Josh Clark: People s- not stop by your desk quite as often and bug you.

Chuck Bryant: Right. We mentioned the flash bang grenades, obviously. If it's a riot situation they have all manner of non-lethal things that they can shoot at you, foam and wood and things that will stop you but not kill you.

Josh Clark: They use grappling hooks and tiger claws.

Chuck Bryant: No, that's Ninja.

Josh Clark: Oh. I get the two confused sometimes.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I understand. Bolt action rifles are the sniper rifle of preference.

Josh Clark: Right, but they're not allowed to use a 50 mm or 50 calibres.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Is it 50 mm or 50 cal?

Chuck Bryant: 50 cal.

Josh Clark: Okay. These are sniper rifles that, I think we've mentioned before in probably the Delta Force podcast. I think we have. Because I think either Special Forces or Delta Force or both requires their snipers to be able to be accurate with a 50 cal sniper rifle, up to 1500 yards.

Chuck Bryant: And why can't they use them in the private police sector?

Josh Clark: Because it will go right through your target and through a couple of hostages as well.

Chuck Bryant: And walls.

Josh Clark: It can also go right through walls.

Chuck Bryant: Check that out, it's huge.

Josh Clark: That's twice as tall as a dollar bill.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I'm showing Josh a picture of a 50 cal round. And they did a measurement next to a rule, and it's about 5 and a half inches long.

Josh Clark: Wow.

Chuck Bryant: Is this bullet.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: With the casing, obviously, but -

Josh Clark: It's enormous.

Chuck Bryant: It can rip very big holes in things.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So they don't allow them to use that because it could potentially kill hostages like on the street behind the house.

Josh Clark: It could potentially kill a fruit vendor two towns over.

Chuck Bryant: It could.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's not good.

Josh Clark: No. You want your fruit vendors alive and well.

Chuck Bryant: And surveillance equipment, obviously.

Josh Clark: Yeah, that pinhole camera I mentioned.

Chuck Bryant: Sure. High power binoculars! NVGs, night vision goggles.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Have you ever used those?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: I have.

Josh Clark: Have you really?

Chuck Bryant: yeah.

Josh Clark: Did you - were you carrying this thing?

Chuck Bryant: No, no, no. My brother-in-law is in the Marines and he let me wear his out in the neighbourhood one night.

Josh Clark: Did you toilet paper your neighbour's house?

Chuck Bryant: No, but I walked around and looked at stuff. It was about the coolest thing ever.

Josh Clark: Really? Did you notice anything that you wouldn't normally see, like squirrels doing weird stuff?

Chuck Bryant: Well not weird stuff, but you can see in the dark. Although not complete dark! You know they work by amplifying available light.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: But if it is complete dark what can they use?

Josh Clark: Thermal imaging cameras.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: I have a story about this, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Let's hear it.

Josh Clark: Back in the turn of the last millennium, Chuck, there was a lot of debate about whether or not Police departments or law enforcement should be using these thermal imaging cameras, because they said that they could see right through walls, they could - there was way too much detail.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: It was just unfair and it violated privacy.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Right? And they were using them in flyovers of suspected grow houses. But basically you could just ride around and look right into somebody's house.

Chuck Bryant: What gro- oh, marijuana grow house?

Josh Clark: Now you're hip.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So the law enforcement officers were saying like, no, no, no, you can't see through houses, you can't - all you can see is like whether there is a lot of heat coming off of a house.

Chuck Bryant: True.

Josh Clark: Well I found in an alternative newspaper in East Tennessee, called Washboard Weekly, and I got the bottom of this, and I found out that I think the Union Pacific Railroads employed security guards who had these thermal imaging cameras to look for bums on board. And I got in touch with one of these guys.

Chuck Bryant: Hobos.

Josh Clark: Hobos. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend the bums.

Chuck Bryant: Big diff.

Josh Clark: And I got in touch with one of these security guards and he was boasting about how it could see right through a two-inch thick steel walls and cable cars.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: They're not cable cars, but box cars.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark: Right? And he said you could see everything. You can make out basically details, these things are so good. So I cracked the case.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really.

Josh Clark: Yeah, no one paid attention, but I figure it out that, yeah, law enforcement shouldn't be using those things.

Chuck Bryant: There were 20 people in East Tennessee that were very upset as a result of this finding.

Josh Clark: Exactly, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I thought you were gonna say you got to see it or use it or get a demo.

Josh Clark: No, I just got to the bottom of it, that's all.

Chuck Bryant: Well good job.

Josh Clark: Thanks.

Chuck Bryant: Investigative report Josh.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: And Josh.

Josh Clark: That's a pretty good segue don't you think, to I guess accusations of over use and over aggression of SWAT teams.

Chuck Bryant: Sure, there's a lot of controversy and criticism right now over the past, you know, decade or so. For instance calling out the SWAT team to serve a warrant on a non-violent offender seems like it might be overkill.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And it has been just plain old kill in several occasions.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Let's talk about a couple of these.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: And we're not trying to blow the whistle, but these things have actually happened, sadly. In South Carolina in a high school drug raid, a SWAT team was called in to a high school drug raid. And they forced students as young as 14 to kneel down and gunpoint and drug dogs sniffed around in their lockers and their backpacks and they, of course, found no drugs.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I would say that is overkill and misuse of a SWAT team.

Josh Clark: Very much so. You want to hear another one?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, let's hear it.

Josh Clark: In 2006 in Maryland, police raided the home of Cheryl Noel, to, I guess, seize drugs from her 19 year old son. Those drugs turned out to be marijuana.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Just a tiny amount. But the cops came in at 4:30 in the morning. Cheryl Noel had no idea what was going on, so she heard somebody storming into her house and she grabbed her registered gun and had it pointed at the floor in her bedroom where she was standing.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: The cops kicked the bedroom door in without identifying themselves. And without telling her to drop the weapon, they shot her three times.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: The third time was when she was already on the ground.

Chuck Bryant: Really.

Josh Clark: She was dead. And they ruled it a justifiable killing.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: You know that happened to that old lady in Atlanta just last year.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But it wasn't SWAT that was just regular cops.

Josh Clark: It was I think Red Dog.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, was it?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And they just busted in on her and I think she had a gun, right?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And acted in self-defence and they killed this old lady.

Josh Clark: Yeah, they shot her like seven or eight times.

Chuck Bryant: Very sad.

Josh Clark: I think Red Dog got disbanded because of that.

Chuck Bryant: Did they?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Here's another good one. This is my favourite one. And optometrist at some point was shot and killed by a SWAT team officer when the team was called out to arrest him for betting on football games.

Josh Clark: Yeah, guy name Salvatore Culosi Jr.

Chuck Bryant: Where was this, do you know?

Josh Clark: It was in Boston. And the guy was complying. He was outside of his house, hands up, doing everything the cops were telling him to do. And one of the SWAT team members had a, I think an ATK or somebody's 45 trained on the guy's chest with his finger on the trigger and accidentally shot him in the chest and killed him for betting on NFL football.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Well thankfully these incidences are few and far between.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And I mean they - the police department in the City tends to side with their SWAT team. They'll pay out like $1 million for a wrongful death or something like that. But it's not really having any impact on the use of SWAT teams. But something else is, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: What's that?

Josh Clark: Did you notice the sidebar on the active shooter doctrine?

Chuck Bryant: Yes, I did actually. That's when their - its like some kook goes into the office building and starts shooting people up or a school shooter.

Josh Clark: Right, school. School shooting is what gave rise to this, the '96 Columbine shooting.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: For an hour, while this rampage was going on, the regular cops created a perimeter and just stood outside of it waiting for the SWAT team, which is exactly what they were supposed to do.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's no good though.

Josh Clark: No, it's not. Because by the time the SWAT team finally went in, everything was over.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: There were, you know, I think 17 dead and 35 injured. One guy led to death in like while the - before the SWAT team made it in.

Chuck Bryant: Jeez.

Josh Clark: And both shooters had killed themselves, right?

Chuck Bryant: Awful.

Josh Clark: So that gave rise to this active shooter doctrine which is kind of this new school of thought that has led to new training for just the average patrol officer to handle this kind of thing, rather than sit around and wait for SWAT.

Chuck Bryant: So to act fast.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And to act tough as well, you know, I mean if someone's running around shooting, you can't just call and say we need SWAT and wait an hour.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: You have to go in and kill the guy yourself.

Chuck Bryant: Neutralize.

Josh Clark: Yes, neutralize, sorry.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So that's leading to a whole new sentiment and like I said, training for regular officers across the country, which is really odd for SWAT now because they're being relegated to just static situations where there's like a hostage and there's time. The element of time!

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Which I wonder how many SWAT team members are happy about this active shooter doctrine.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, seriously.

Josh Clark: It was kind of their thing.

Chuck Bryant: [Inaudible]

Josh Clark: yeah.

Chuck Bryant: You know, I've noticed if we say guys a lot we're not trying to be sexist, but most of these creeps who take hostages and barricade and then shoot up schools and office buildings. They're usually guys.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: Let's be real here. Women are far too sensible to do something like that.

Josh Clark: Well put, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Well if want to learn more about SWAT, you can type in how SWAT teams work in the handy search bar at HowStuffWorks.com, which of course leads us now to listener mail.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, Josh, I'm going to call this Gilligan's Island reference.

Josh Clark: I like it already.

Chuck Bryant: It starts out good. This is from Dan in Fort Collins. I guess it's Colorado, right?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Hi Chuck and Josh. Great Red Dawn reference in the Honeybee episode! I wonder how many people got that? Remember when I said wolverines was spray painted on the front of the Honeybee?

Josh Clark: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Wait, should be go back in time?

Chuck Bryant: No, people remember, it was just a couple of weeks ago.

Josh Clark: Gotcha.

Chuck Bryant: But Dan, no one actually ref- noticed that except for you so far.

Josh Clark: Way to go Dan.

Chuck Bryant: So you're on the ball. He points out that there was a classic Gilligan's Island episode, but weren't they all classic, he says. Where a Beatles-like group, the Mosquitoes, got stranded on the island? Do you remember that?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Was there an episode where someone didn't get stranded on the island? Even Zsa Zsa Gabor got stranded there. For reasons I can't remember, the castaways put together two groups of competing bands, one with the guys. The other was the Honeybees.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Featuring Ginger, Mary Ann and Mrs. Howell. And you can see that on YouTube, he gives the address. But I'm sure you can search for that if you want to see it. When the Mosquitoes, Bingo, Bongo, Bango and Irving did get off the island, they cited the Honeybees and said they had enough competition already and all this is of course a reference to the Honeybee cast. But it leads to this eternal question. Ginger or Mary Ann?

Josh Clark: Ginger.

Chuck Bryant: The answer is Mary Ann.

Josh Clark: Mary Ann.

Chuck Bryant: I say Mrs. Howell.

Josh Clark: Sicko.

Chuck Bryant: Cougar central, buddy. She's loaded.

Josh Clark: I can't decide, that is an eternal question I think. She's loaded?

Chuck Bryant: Well she's rich, she's old.

Josh Clark: She's sicko.

Chuck Bryant: She's experienced. I'll go with Mary Ann too though.

Josh Clark: Will ya? I think ultimately in the long run, definitely Mary Ann.

Chuck Bryant: Although growing up as a young Baptists, it was very conflicting. It's the classic scenario of good girl, bad girl.

Josh Clark: Yeah, but ultimately isn't the best to hope for an equal - a balanced mixture of the two? Don't you want a good girl who knows how to be a bad girl as well?

Chuck Bryant: I guess so. You want Ginger and Mary Ann.

Josh Clark: Yeah. I've got Ginger and Mary Ann.

Chuck Bryant: Anyhow. And he goes on to say Hi to Josh and Jerry, because he addressed it to me. And how does Josh manage to say HowStuffWorks.com in time with the music at the end of every show and then he says, oh, I get it, Jerry does that.

Josh Clark: Wrong. That is just my natural timing.

Chuck Bryant: No, Jerry is the secret behind this mess. We all know that.

Josh Clark: Yeah. If she even left in one "beep" we would be in big trouble.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well if you have a compliment for Jerry, if you've figured out that she is the sorceress behind this entire contraption, kudos to you. Send the compliment to us in an e-mail. "Beep." Send the compliment - see, leave that it. Do you see, this is what Jerry does. Send the compliment in an e-mail to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com.

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