September 21st, 2009
When you ask people what tool they associate with police, they will say a gun. When you ask the same about a fireman, they will likely say an ax. Why is that? I believe it is a combination of tradition and misunderstanding. The truth is that law enforcement now more than ever put in a position to save lives during rescue situations.
Several years ago, there was a huge push to put Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in police vehicles. The reasoning was that police are on patrol and are the true first responders, since fire / EMS often has to respond from their house or another part of town. The issuance of AEDs to police is responsible for saving the lives of others who would have otherwise died. The key is getting to victims as fast as possible. Arriving at the scene is only one part of making that happen. They need to be able to get into the structure where victims lie helpless. This supports the case for individual patrol officers having breaching tools at their disposal. Because of size, weight, design and price, I believe the best option is the tactical tomahawk by RMJ Tactical called the Shrike.
Officers are the first responders to a myriad of emergency calls including motor vehicle accidents, structure fires, check the well being calls, and the ambiguous 911 hang up. While serving as a policeman, I had an affinity for “kicking doors” as they say in the business. Having served both as the breacher for our SWAT team and as a patrolman, allowed me to be involved in several different breaching scenarios. Being slow or unsuccessful when breaching a door during a narcotics warrant may result in lost evidence. Doing the same during a house fire or domestic disturbance or working fire may result in lost lives. Imagine responding to a house fire at 3 AM and seeing a victim laying motionless just inside the door and not being able to gain access to help them.
As I already mentioned, the most common way for a patrol officer to gain access to a residence during an emergency is by kicking a door in. Most of the time this does little damage to the door but devastates the frame of the door. Think of the time and money you could save the property owner by using the tomahawk and measured response to pop the door open.
Ask the average patrol officer what he used to break a window at the last motor vehicle accident he responded to and he will most likely say that it was his expandable baton. Not only is the baton engineered and carried to be used as a defensive weapon against people, there is no training that I am aware of where they advise that it be used for an entry tool. It can be very frustrating to beat on a window with your baton while people are trapped inside with the distant sound of rescue vehicles sounding miles away.
By now most officers have received training in reference to responding to an active shooter scenario. Often these incidents take place in schools and other government buildings. These structures usually have heavy exterior and interior doors with windows reinforced with chicken wire. We know from experience that these incidents happen fast. The best-trained, highly motivated officer, carrying the best weapons will be of no use to stop the carnage if he cannot get into the structure.
The tactical tomahawk should be issued and labeled a breaching tool along with other rescue equipment such as the AED, first aid kit, and fire extinguisher. Being able to pierce, pry, pull, and push your way into where victims lay may mean the difference between life and death.