Los Angeles County, California encompasses a 4,000 square mile area and is roughly the size of the state of Indiana. Within its boundaries lie the second largest city in the Untied States and 79 other municipalities.
The law enforcement agency charged with maintaining order within the County is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department or LASD. The LASD’s 8,200 sworn deputies provide services to the unincorporated county areas, the Department’s 40 contract cities, and to the independent cities within the county which have mutual aid agreements with the Sheriff’s Department.
Special Enforcement Bureau
The Special Enforcement Bureau is a Departmental support unit that provides a variety of specialized services throughout Los Angeles County. It is currently composed of five details that provide these services. They include the Canine Services and Search Detail, the Emergency Services Detail (ESD), the Special Enforcement Detail (SED-special weapons teams), the Mounted Enforcement Detail, and the Special Motorcycle Detail.
The minimum requirements for assignment to SEB are two years of field experience. However, with the large number of personnel applying for entrance into the unit, its most recent appointees have 8 to 10 years of experience. Of an 8,200 sworn member department, only 88 at a time can be assigned to SEB. The Bureau’s current total personnel strength consists of 87 sworn personnel and six civilian employees.
Special Enforcement Detail
The Special Enforcement Detail (SED) is the LASD’s special weapons team. The LASD was one of the first law enforcement agencies in the country to establish a SWAT team, with the first team being raised in 1968 (LAPD was first in 1967). The SED is responsible for handling high-risk tactical situations involving barricaded suspects, hostage situations, and high-risk warrant services. They also provide dignitary protection details for visiting dignitaries, conduct mobile field force deployments, and on a few occasions mission specific crime prevention for patrol stations, and detective units.
The SED is currently composed of six special weapons teams, with each team consisting of a team leader, a sergeant, and seven deputies. Deputies are assigned positions as either one of the two long riflemen, or members of the five-man entry team.
Three SED deputies are assigned to perform administrative duties within the detail ( i.e. scheduling, training, utility ). These deputies act as either command post radioman/scribe or deploy as long rifle or containment. Three lieutenants rotate command of the team on a weekly basis, with the position of SWAT duty team being rotated between the six SWAT teams on a daily basis.
SED deputies respond to an average of 200 plus call-outs per year, with the team handling 204 in 1999 and 218 in 1998. The detail has a primary goal of saving lives. Every measure is taken to not only ensure the safety of SED personnel, but everyone involved in an incident. As such, its expertise in solving dangerous situations through experience, training, and highly specialized equipment was demonstrated in 1998 as there was not a single incident requiring the use of firearms to resolve the situation, and only two instances where firearms were discharged in 1999.
On any call-out, the “primary team” has responsibility for handling the call, but a second team is usually deployed to allow enough personnel to adequately handle most barricade or hostage situations. The combination of the two teams is referred to as the “duty team”, with the primary team assigned in charge. SED also deploys at least ESD two paramedics, and a K-9, unit to every call.
Before being allowed to gain SED membership prospective applicants must first undergo a stringent selection process, which includes a physical agility test, an oral interview, and a thorough review of the applicant’s service record. The physical agility test includes a timed run on an obstacle course in less than 7 minutes and 45 seconds. Once gaining membership into the SED deputies are required to achieve a passing score on the test every three months to retain their position.
The SED conducts several training schools throughout the year, including a Basic and Advanced SWAT course, and a Long-rifle (Sniper) School. All of these schools have been certified by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).
Students attending the various training courses consist not only of SED members, but other US law enforcement agencies, and US military personnel. Members of the US Navy SEAL,s, and other military special operations units, often attend SED training schools to gain additional experience in conducting tactical operations. In addition, students from several foreign countries have attended SED training courses. For example, Venezuelan police officers attended the Basic SWAT School in 1999. Each year SED deputies spend an average of 400 hours of training time on the range honing their shooting skills.
The SED arsenal contains a variety of lethal and less than lethal weapons to help the team accomplish its mission. The standard issue submachine gun (SMG) is the HK MP-5 9mm SMG. The issue pistol is the 9mm Barretta F-92 with attached tac light. Shotguns include the Remington 870, and Benelli Super 90 12 GA shotguns, which are used strictly for breaching purposes. Rifles on the issue to the SED include the M-16 series assault rifles; and the Remington 700 sniper rifle in .308 caliber.
The LASD is on the cutting edge of less than lethal technologies, 37 mm gas guns, diversionary devices, and chemical munitions are also employed by the team. The Department has also been experimenting with a number of emerging technologies over the past few years and is evaluating them for possible future employment.