Of Bombs and Blighs

Posted: February 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

I remember 7 months ago being in a military bunkhouse in where seemed like the middle of nowhere. I went on my own accord to do specialized training, that was foreign to operations in TnT, there was a thin air of anxiety. I hadn’t even unpacked yet when I got a message that there was chaos back home. 3 men had escaped the prison, offenders and security officers shot, rumors of ammunition being moved by an ex-special forces solider during the confusion, and of course a lone grenade sitting outside of an occupied police vehicle. Port-of-Spain sounded like a maelstrom of panic and disorder, and the rest of the country moving in a frantic shuffle. 2 of the escapees ended up dead, and 1 turned himself in the following day. The imagery of the ‘dud’ grenade sitting in the drain is embedded in my memory, and given the recent 51 Degrees/Town restaurant robbery and the Mucurapo Road explosion, the phrase “have we learnt nothing?”

These incidents are far from the first critical incidents to occur in TnT’s short history, however they are the ones that are most pertinent given the backdrop or modern law enforcement/military studies. Warfare and tactics 2 generations ago centred around open battle, 1 generation ago around counter-revolution, and this era is that of urban combat. That is not to say that the each is divorced from each other, however the conditioned thought process sits at the core of the commander in charge. Many 1st world countries targeted by terrorists, and with more radical elements of the public than we are accustomed too had to learn the hard way the first time. This however gives us the chance to learn and prepare, but like the old saying “who doh listen, go feel,” we wait time and time again for things to go more and more wrong. The 51 Degrees/Town restaurant robbery and standoff was a perfect example of just waiting for something disastrous to happen.

hostage-takerFirst of all let me credit the police who dealt with the standoff and thank them on behalf of the public for bringing things to a peaceful end. That being said, watching how they were directed in the 4 hour showdown, and how the situation was approached, it could have been a mess of bodies and chaos if the perpetrator was a little more equipped or aggressively criminally minded. When the thief (who initial sources confirmed was armed), decided to hold up in the building he was robbing, streets were immediately blocked off and tactical units called in to respond. This however was the length and breath of procedure until they got frustrated into throwing a tear gas grenade to smoke the perp out, which they then made a grab inside for. When there is a situation with an armed suspect barricaded in a building, much more should have been done as the situation is now considered a ‘Critical Incident.’ In the US a SWAT team would usually be called in, along with a negotiator. Arguably the Task Force here is akin to a SWAT team, barring a few elementsswat-sniper-920-24. Very important to this would be to place a sharpshooter or police sniper on an adjacent roof to be the eyes of ground command from that angle. Necessary to have a negotiator and sharpshooter or sniper? Not from the end result i.e. how it played out, but what if there was a hostage taken (especially one that could not be confirmed from where the police were on the ground)?
What if there were additional perpetrators hiding inside (supposedly armed). What if he started laying booby traps, or was armed with an explosive device (especially with the popularity of improvised explosive devices)? Finding out that a criminal or situation is more deadly than you prepared for is seen as an unforgivable blunder in law enforcement.

Riot-police-in-Croydon-007Crossing over now to the realm of Counter-Terrorism, treating with explosions and the immediate effects (before there is proper containment), law enforcement is the first respondent both on and beyond the supposed suspected terrorism scene. The explosion on Mucurapo Road is a situation where there was chaos (obviously), and it was discovered that the explosion was caused by the same person 3 years consecutively at different locations a day apart. While the show Criminal Minds comes to thought, this could be anything from a bizarre coincidence to planned chaos. Criminal cells use instances like these to occupy and confuse law enforcement while they conduct a sensitive operation, usually being the transport of equipment that is top priority to them. The rumours of an ex special forces soldier transporting ammunition and arms during the chaos of the PoS prison break seemed plausible at the least. The nation was in panic centred around PoS, and if that lone grenade had gone off there would be sufficient collateral damage and civilian panic to keep the protective services occupied well into the night. Those tactics aren’t random, and aren’t usually attempted by untrained persons. This is not to say that the police did not handle the recent explosion well, however there must be greater National Security coordination to ensure that everywhere else is on high alert for suspicious activity while a critical incident is unfolding.

While we have come a long way in equipment, training, and personnel, there still seems to be much to be desired. Equipment evaluation, improved training methods, and ways to integrate a wider range of personnel into service are all needed. Unless there is a revamp of the system and a change in the efficiency we approach things, the public will remain to take the protective services less seriously, and the servicemen themselves will be put in further unnecessary danger. Until then, we are just waiting for a total disaster to happen….for now, we run on our Blighs…BePrepared

(Note: I base the above on my analysis of the situations with information provided, and on the background of being a certified US Anti-Terrorism Officer, Certified in Tactical Law Enforcement operations/weapons, certificates in Critical Incident Management and Hostage Negotiation, as well as being a professionally trained sharpshooter and urban sniper).

Paul-Daniel Nahous BS, CHS-I, ATO
Law Enforcement Consultant
Combat Specialist

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