SWAT Teams: Behind the scenes

MOBILE, AL (WALA) -

Several recent incidents in Mobile and Baldwin counties have led to the deployment of highly specialized tactical law enforcement teams.

They are called “Special Weapons And Tactics Teams,” more commonly known as SWAT teams.

In early March, the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team was called out after sheriffs officials say a man in the Barnwell community repeatedly fired at deputies.

A few days later, in Mobile, SWAT team members broke down the door of a home on Raybon Road. They arrested two people.

But you have rarely had a chance to get a close look at these units.until now. FOX10 News was able to take video of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team during a recent practice.

It is one of several SWAT teams in our area. The Mobile Police Department has a SWAT unit. So does the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.

There’s also the South Baldwin Special Response Team, a multi-agency team of officers from Gulf Shores, Foley, and Orange Beach. 

When asked what some of the most important qualities in hostage negotiations, Lt. Paul Soulier with the Mobile Police Crisis Negotiation Team said, “Patience is one of them because you could be on the scene for a long time.”

This team, as well as units in the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, have tactical and negotiation components. They all have the same mission.

Lt. Daniel Steelman with the SWAT unit in the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office said, “Our goal is non-violent conflict resolution.”  

The Baldwin SWAT team has five members. The Mobile Crisis Negotiation Team has eight. Both have team leaders, as well as officers or deputies who gather intelligence on a person barricaded in a home or holding a hostage.

Corporal Nathaniel Lamplugh is one of the members of the SWAT team with the Baldwin Sheriff’s Office.

He said, “You have a part to play, and you have to stay focused on what that is and the things around you. The distractions,  you’ve got to kind of set them to the side.”

But the teams also have a member you may not have heard of.

Soulier said, “One person what we call the ‘Coach.’ The coach is what you would call the ‘Scribe.’ “

Steelman said, “When we’re working in negotiations, we’ll have a board and we’ll have our ‘Scribe’ listing the information that our intel coordinator is gathering.”

The intelligence comes from the same places you would look when you want to find information about a person.

Steelman said, “We pull background on them.  We typically try, whoever we’re negotiating with, to reach out to family members, look at their Facebook page.”

But SWAT team members say opening lines of communication is crucial.

Steelman said, “The first step is getting them to answer the phone when we’re calling for them.” 

And the SWAT teams are happy to provide the phones.

Steelman said, “At times we have to deploy a ‘throw phone.’ “

It’s called a ‘throw phone’ because it’s thrown by SWAT team members from a safe place, like an armored personnel carrier.

Steelman said, “We have a speaker that I can monitor the conversation outside of the negotiators to hear everything that’s going on both sides of the conversation.” 

Sometimes a person barricaded in a home won’t talk.

But, sometimes, they do.

Soulier said, “Most of the situations that we deal with it’s someone who’s gotten into a situation beyond their control.  They get, basically, backed into a corner and they get scared and overreact. and what we’re doing is we’re trying to talk them down from whatever, if you will, excited state or whatever state that they’re in.”

And if SWAT team members can get a barricaded subject to talk, next comes another important step.

Steelman said, “They really need someone to listen and you, obviously, have to be able to respond to them.  But, rather than trying to dominate the conversation, you listen to them and let them know that you do care and that they are important to you and they are important to the public.” 

Sgt. Matt Morrison, a member of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team said, “Any victims that are involved, obviously, are the first ones that we’re worried about.  Then, we take ourselves into consideration. Obviously, the suspect as well.  We want everybody to come out safe and alive and the situation to end well.”  

Steelman said, “That is always our goal: the preservation of life.” 

And as for training, Mobile Police say their crisis negotiators go through “Level Two” certified training.

Baldwin County SWAT team officials say they go through at least 120 hours of advanced training and conflict resolution, as well as continuing education.

All content © 2018, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved. 

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