Something I often tell myself is SLOW DOWN. This advice is even in my FIRE RESCUE book (on page 16) when I tell the story of how I nearly fell out of the fire engine onto the concrete - camera gear and all - while out on my first call. I landed on my feet, thankfully, but I let the excitement of the situation take over my brain.
"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast."
Ever since I heard this from IRCSO Deputy Brian Aguiar, a sniper on our S.W.A.T. Team, I have been applying it to everything, even making breakfast.
I looked it up and got this explanation: "The 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast' saying has its origins in the military. Within this context, the meaning is fairly obvious: moving fast, or rushing it, is reckless and will likely get you killed. If you move slowly, carefully and deliberate however, you are really moving as fast as you can without needlessly increasing the risk on your life."
If you are on a S.W.A.T. Team, this is a valuable philosophy to assimilate, both for your own safety and the safety of your team.
Day 7 of Citizen's Academy was all about our S.W.A.T. Team, presented by Sgt. Mike Pierce and Lt. Lonnie Rich. It was especially interesting to me having known Mike in junior high and high school to see him now all grown up and working as a S.W.A.T. Team Crisis Negotiator. As I recall, he always did have a way with words. Nearby on the table were all kinds of weapons and S.W.A.T. gear.
"What calls us to be in this type of law enforcement?" he asked. "I think of it as the dark side of law enforcement." Mike went on to describe the increasing danger and violence in our society, ever since we lost our innocence as a country when Kennedy was assassinated by an active shooter on live television.
S.W.A.T. has three components: Tactical, Sniper and Negotiations. They are the ones called in to high risk operations that need a military-type response. Hostage or crisis situations. Drug busts. Serving felony arrest warrants. He said his role as negotiator is to talk the perpetrators into realizing there is a way out. To calm them down and make them trust you. To relate to them. To wear them down and convince them this is not the end of the world. "We are not leaving. We are in this now. What can we do to resolve it?"
He also suggests we never watch the movie The Negotiator. "That is not reality."
Next up was Lt. Lonnie Rich. He explained the tactical side of S.W.A.T. and showed us all the gear they need in these high risk situations. He chose Terry from our class to dress up in the full gear!
A member of the class asked him if he had ever killed anyone. "No. We don't shoot to kill, we shoot to stop, and we have not had a S.W.A.T.-related shooting since 1989. That shows you how well we do our job."
S.W.A.T. is also called in whenever dignitaries come into town. "It's not going to happen on our watch," he said more than a few times.
He goes on to explain how when they are on a call-out, they minimize their time in open space. They observe everything about the building they may have to enter. They learn the layout. They look for the roof vents. They decide if the glass is hurricane resistant, requiring special tools to break it. They are always planning and gathering information. THEY TAKE THEIR TIME. They get in place and look before they deploy their tactics. Mostly they wait for hours on end while the negotiators try to resolve the situation.
I asked him why he got into law enforcement. "I grew up in Ft. Pierce across from the crime lab," he said. "Plus I needed to decide, am I going to be on this side of the law or that side of the law? I chose this side of the law."
Next we went outside and saw three vehicles: 1) the S.W.A.T. negotiations truck, 2) the S.W.A.T. MRAP (mine resistant armored protection) vehicle which before coming to Indian River County served our soldiers in Afghanistan (complete with a bullet hole from the war and desert sand still in the crevices of the vehicle), and 3) the new badass (am I allowed to say that here?) patrol cars.
Here is Sgt. Mike Pierce in the negotiations truck:
Here is the S.W.A.T. MRAP (mine resistant armored protection) vehicle:
Later Lt. Rich deployed a very loud explosive in the grass. I managed not to drop the camera but I did not get a photo.
Later that night in my dream I was on the S.W.A.T. team and we were trying to rescue the stolen girls from Boko Haram but sandstorms from Afghanistan kept stopping us. I remembered to go slow.
I am an official, fully vetted volunteer with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office (Citizen's Academy, background checks, fingerprinted, etc.). Since my expertise is photo-journalism, producing these stories is one way I give back to my community.
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