Not everyone willingly opens their doors for the police…especially those given towards a bent of the entrepreneurial persuasion when purveying in goods which are not entirely “above board.” This leads us to the subject of “breaching,” which essentially is gaining access when access is denied.
When first in SWAT in the early ‘80’s, we would utilize handheld rams and sledgehammers to open standard doors. Steel security doors were then employed and we resorted to window entries. Then, bars were put over windows and we adapted by using hooks attached to heavy rope and vehicles to pull down the window bars or doors or both depending on the fortifications. The bad guys, not to be outdone, utilized a two stage cage system on the doors. This ingenious design utilized a steel door on the outside…a steel enclosed caged hallway of sorts leading to a secondary door deeper in the house. We went to the infamous “Battering Ram,” which utilized a long steel pole, affixed to an armored military surplus V-100 to defeat this. They went to second story structures. We responded by building a “SWAT in the Box,” which was a hydraulic ramp affixed to a dual rear tire, heavy-duty truck which elevated the entry team to the second story of our budding business professionals.
All of this was in response to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s in Los Angeles. We employed some rather innovative designs and techniques in addition to the aforementioned systems. One was the harpoon, which was a heavy steel device that used a compressed air tank to deploy steel barbs once the solid steel pyramidal point was thrust onto the exterior walls of a structure. The barbs would be deployed and the harpoon was then pulled from the back of a truck and “voila” an, entry point! We also utilized the Keri Cutting cable. This was a hollow, self-burning line that utilized compressed oxygen from a tank worn by the operator. It burned at thousands of degrees and cut through steel like a hot knife through butter. It burned very, very bright. On one particular warrant I was the guarding officer armed with a Benelli shotgun for the operator of the Keri cable. The operator was about 6’2” and in addition to his vest and equipment he wore a welder’s helmet and gloves. We hit the location at about 0300 hours. Silently approaching the front door I provided cover as he lit the cable. Now about that time for whatever reason, the dope peddler decided to open his inner front door positioned behind the steel cage door. The operator, never one for a loss of words, simply stated “Hi there!” and lit the cable. The burn from this, lights up the area like a mini-sun. Well… junior got the biggest case of the “big eyes” screamed at the top of his lungs and took off for the back of the house. Pretty funny stuff.
We used explosives on some structures. One set of charges not only opened the doors, it shattered windows in the neighborhood and moved the house on its foundation. We were all in the experimental phase of countering the ingenuity of the narcotics profession, so it really was an evolving education on a daily basis.
Breeching can be utilized not only for warrant service, but for hostage rescue or emergency rescues should the need ever arise.
Fast forward to today and there have been many advances in techniques and tools that allow access to various structures. ITTS hosts a class for Law Enforcement only, which is taught by the primary breachers for SWAT. Not all departments have the funds nor ability to employ high tech armored vehicles and the like. This class instructs the students in the techniques and available equipment that can defeat many of the commonly encountered “hard points” during the execution of warrants. Discussed and utilized are handheld rams, rakes, halligans, ballistic breaching compressed frangible shotgun rounds, cutting tools, spreaders, torch and cutting rods, vehicle hooks and line as well as systems developed and brought by the individual officers. Live fire is also incorporated into these dynamic entries. It is a fascinating class and one which is well worth attending.
More details on our Breaching Class here: https://internationaltactical.com/breaching.html