Some Northeast residents got an up-close and personal look at the city’s SWAT team, but without the riot gear.
On the contrary, Philadelphia Police Capt. Winton Singletary brought only his public relations skills to the March 21 meeting of the 7th Police District Advisory Council, briefing members of the civilian group on the many roles that the “Special Weapons And Tactics” unit performs to keep the city safe.
Lately — with the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., still fresh in the nation’s consciousness — SWAT has spent much of its time studying strategies for dealing with “active shooter” situations and teaching those protocols to patrol cops throughout the city.
“Most active shooter situations are over in 10 minutes,” said Singletary, the unit’s commanding officer. “So by the time my guys get suited up and get there, it’s over.”
Invariably, patrol cops will get to the scene first. That’s why officers in all the city’s districts, including the 2nd, 7th, 8th and 15th in the Northeast, must be equipped with special weapons and trained to respond.
“We’re training the rest of the police department on this,” Singletary said.
There are countless possible scenarios.
“You could have a terrorist active shooter or you could have a domestic active shooter [involving a family],” Singletary said. “You could have an employee who got fired or, with a school, you could have a bullying situation.”
Active-shooter cases are rare, but one occurred in the Northeast in 2010 when a disgruntled Kraft Foods employee shot three co-workers at the company’s Roosevelt Boulevard plant. Patrol cops from the 7th and 8th districts were first into the building and cornered the shooter, Yvonne Hiller, leading to her arrest.
So-called barricade situations are more common. That’s when someone barricades himself inside a building, such as a home or business, under threat of harming himself or police. Often, the person is wanted for a crime or has emotional problems.
Barricade and hostage situations usually take longer to develop and afford SWAT time to respond in full gear, including helmets, ballistic vests, assault weapons and armored vehicles, if necessary.
According to Singletary, the SWAT unit is active around the clock. When not in training or responding to a major incident, members patrol in the city’s high-crime areas in support of beat cops in those districts. They’re distinguishable as the officers wearing all-black military fatigues. Even their badges and uniform markings are black.
In unrelated business, the 7th PDAC honored Officer Thomas Carpino as the district’s February Officer of the Month for his arrest of an alleged mugger. It was the 11th time he has won the honor since he transferred into the district in August 2003. He has twice been the district’s Officer of the Year.
On Feb. 2 at about 1:45 p.m., Carpino went to the area of Regina Street and Kelvin Avenue in Somerton in response to a police radio report of a robbery in progress. Other officers met the victim, who claimed that she was walking down the street when a man approached her from behind and grabbed her purse. The woman injured her hand when the robber ripped the purse from her.
A short time later, Carpino saw a man fitting a description of the robber walking on the 500 block of Larkspur St. He detained the man, allowing the victim to identify the suspect as the robber. Police found the woman’s money, driver’s license, credit cards and cigarettes on the suspect, as well as a razor knife. Carpino arrested the man. ••