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S.W.A.T. In a Neighbor’s Backyard

Anthony Bandiero here to bring you another chat.  We’ve got an excellent question here from an officer in California.  The officer is basically asking, “Can police go into a neighbor’s backyard during a SWAT operation?”

Excellent question.  So let me give you a little feedback about the scenario here.  During a SWAT operation, let’s say a search warrant, SWAT operators are attempting to establish containment next to the house, to the residence, the target.

Now, they ask permission to go into somebody’s backyard, but they are denied.  Can the officers still enter the neighbor’s backyard for containment purposes only or would this be a violation of the Fourth Amendment?  Excellent question!

Here’s your answer.  Do you have exigency?  Do you have the exigency just to get you into people’s backyards if there’s no time to go get additional pre-approval to be in these neighbors’ backyards?  By the time you get that approval, something bad could happen.

In 2022, we’re not dusting off SWAT unless it’s pretty serious.  This is my impression out there, because of the liability that comes with SWAT operations.  So we’re getting our operators out, and we’re gearing up.  It’s for a serious situation, right?  People have guns, and so forth.  That could be a menace.

So I want to know what the operation is about.  You’re going to have to sell me on it.  But you get my point.  So the answer is, “Look, do you have exigency?”  Do you have some kind of public safety issue that if you are not in that backyard, this guy could escape and hurt other people?

This is his neighbor’s house, the only yard that you could actually use to potentially contain this person.  There’s no alley, there’s a huge retaining wall on the other side.  In other words, this neighbor, like it or not, has the the best place for us to to be in case this guy comes out. So knowing that will help.

But if we go into that backyard, we could go to court, and we could get sued.  These neighbors are already denying entry.  So you know what’s going to happen.  If the cops go back there anyway, they’re likely to get sued, right?  They’re already kind of giving you a heads up, like; “We’re not on your side on this one. You can’t go into our backyard.”  So expect a lawsuit.

And, especially because you cops have a little heads up on this, you better feel damn good about what you’re doing, because you want to be defensible.  You don’t want to be on the fence here and be like, “Yeah, you know, could have gone either way.  I decided to do it anyway.”

Nobody wants to be in a lawsuit and lose.  Now, you can’t stop people from suing you.  But losing costs a lot of money, right?   Fighting them costs a lot of money.  So my advice is: be sure you have exigency!

My other advice to you, by the way, is to push up it the chain, unless you have something pressing right now, and there are people’s lives in danger.  But if you’ve got a few seconds, I would like to have somebody on scene; a lieutenant, or a sergeant to work with.  I like to push it up the chain to the command level.  I like to get their buy-in, because the last thing that I want personally, is to find out that my own brass doesn’t have my back if I push my way into that backyard.

Does that make sense?  There you go, guys.  If you have exigency, you win.  If you don’t have exigency, you lose.  Okay, that’s all I have for you on this topic.  Do you want me to keep doing these?  Do these help?  Then of course, let me know, and keep the questions coming!

Until next time, my friends stay safe!


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