SWAT Teams Less Likely to Use Lethal Force, Study Finds

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SWAT teams responding to high-risk incidents—including armed suspects, suicidal individuals, barricaded suspects, hostage situations and active shooters—are eight times more likely to use less lethal measures than lethal force, says a study conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Tactical Officers Association.

The non-lethal measures defined by the study include armored vehicles, robots, tear gas and canine support, according to the The National Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Study: A National Assessment of Critical Trends and Issues from 2009 and 2013.

The study was based on interviews with 254 law enforcement agencies around the U.S. who deploy “teams composed of specially selected, trained, and equipped personnel who are activated and, if necessary, deployed to resolve high-risk incidents.”  It explored how SWAT members handled high-riask scenarios, the technology they used, and their organizational structure.

Researchers found that the factor which seemed to have the most negative impact on SWAT teams was budget issues.

Other findings included:

  • More than 60 percent of the organizations had their own SWAT teams in 2013.
  • SWAT teams nationwide were most likely to be deployed in a high-risk situation involving firearms and serving a warrant.
  • Technology was listed as the factor having the biggest positive impact on SWAT team operations.

The most common complaints in regard to SWAT operations included property damage and unspecified types of complaints

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