Columbia's SWAT team performs for citizen audience

Thursday, August 18, 2011 | 5:23 p.m. CDT; updated 8:53 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 18, 2011


Columbia's SWAT team ran through the smoke, two officers throwing the "hostage-taker" to the ground, while the rest rushed four "hostages" out of a two-story garage.

After a few tense moments, the "hostage-taker" walked away — with a cut on his finger but a smile on his face.

The smell of smoke rose to the audience as they applauded from a platform overlooking the mock operation.

"A hostage situation is the Super Bowl of what we have to do," said Roger Schlude, leader of the team performing for the Citizens Academy class at the Columbia Police Department Training Center on Wednesday. "Very fast, very deliberate and very violent action."

The series of lectures held every Wednesday in August are meant to give the public a better understanding of what the Columbia Police Department does. Topics covered include patrol operations, narcotics investigations and SWAT.

“Sometimes the media will skew something to get a better story, and we just want people to have a better idea of what really goes on,” said Richard Horrell, the lecturer and a SWAT team member. 

What the audience saw was real: They got the opportunity to handle SWAT weapons, helmets, shields and ram breaching tools, and even to put on the vests used by team members during operations.

The audience also learned why SWAT teams were created and some of the principles that guide its decisions.

SWAT teams appeared in the U.S. after incidents in the 1960s revealed that regular patrol officers were often insufficiently equipped and trained to deal with “situations outside the realm of ordinary patrol response,” Horrell said. 

"If you're going to a gunfight you've got to have the right weapons, strategies and tactics,” he said. 

As far as strategy, the most important thing is saving lives, Horrell said. Highest priority are the hostages, followed by innocent bystanders, officers and then suspects.

Horrell said the team monitors its performance in an effort to improve. "There’s always an after-action report to learn what we did and what we didn't do.”

A high-profile operation in Columbia in February 2010 prompted adjustments to local SWAT policy. The raid, which turned up a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, was conducted with a child present and resulted in one dead dog and another dog injured. 

Policy changes include continuous surveillance once the department determines a warrant will be requested and an extra level of review before a warrant request is submitted for a tactical operation, Horrell said.

Schlude noted the devotion SWAT team members demonstrate. They endure 20 hours of rigorous training each month.

"I could get emotional about it because they do put their hearts into it,” Schlude said of his team.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Eric Cox August 18, 2011 | 6:47 p.m.

Waste of my tax dollars.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm August 19, 2011 | 7:30 a.m.

Boys playing with their toys while wasting our taxes.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.