In today’s article by João we’ll take a look at one of the busiest special operations teams in South American – PCESP’s SRG. Apologies in advance if it’s a little choppy – we didn’t figure you wanted to read it in Portuguese. Mad Duo
Anytime. Anywhere. The São Paulo Special Reaction Group
João Paulo Moralez
The SRG is comprised of one group, three teams and 36 police officers. The Special Reaction Group (SRG) of the Civilian Police of the State of São Paulo (PCESP) combines all the varied abilities a special operations group must have to serve the complex public safety and protection needs of the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere (and the financial center of Brazil). It brings together some of the best men in São Paulo to fulfill this mission.
They perform tasks from searches to escorts, support to civilian police units or public organization, hostage rescues, protection of authorities, fulfillment of high-risk court orders, confrontations with well-armed criminal groups, and counter-terrorism missions.
The Unit’s Beginnings
Despite having the elite police unit GARRA, which at that time was carrying out specialized and tactical policing to combat violent crime, the State Department of Criminal Investigations (DEIC) felt it needed another team of police officers with specific training, weapons and equipment CT and associated missions.
Some police officers had taken courses abroad, like SWAT training in Miami. Other officers were already dedicated to this type of mission and trained locally. These police officers were assigned to a team and designated the Rescue Special Group on July 17, 1989.
Unlike other units, the group was only assembled on occasions that demanded specialized action, such as the kidnapping of businessman Abílio Diniz on December 11, 1989. SRG played a key role in the rescue of Diniz, who remained in custody of criminals for 36 hours. Once this mission was accomplished, the police officers returned to their normal activities in their police units of origin.
On April 23, 1990, six SWAT instructors from Miami came to Brazil to teach a course to the SRG and the Special Tactical Action Group (GATE), of the State of São Paulo Military Police. The training covered a number of techniques used in special operations, including rappelling from a height of 90 feet (equivalent to a nine floor building). In this case, the exercise included continuous descent, descent with a stop where the policeman had to remove the weapon or a tear gas grenade, and two stops to put on a gas mask.
In addition, tactical entries were made in confined environments with precision shot techniques (sniper). Physical training was also emphasized. At the time, the head of the US mission praised the preparation of some police officers who, according to him, fulfilled all the requirements to integrate into his own SWAT team.
Coincidentally, after the SWAT training, the crime of robbery combined with hostage-taking became common in São Paulo. The Civilian Police, responding to this new criminal tactic, made the SRG a fixed team with its own headquarters, equipment and vehicles. The Group began responding to these cases, achieving success in all of them. The primary objective was to ensure the physical integrity of the victim, and perpetrators generally surrendered after hours of negotiations.
Due to its successes, the SRG was activated for crises in other states, mainly in prison complex rebellions.
The SRG after 2000
In 2011 the SRG was transferred to the State Department of Homicide and Protection of the Person, the DHPP, but returned to DEIC in 2015. Its name was then changed to the Special Reaction Group, keeping the acronym SRG and becoming part of the Division of Special Operations. In this Division are two other elite groups of PCESP: the Aerotactic Service, which has four helicopters and pilots and crew members specializing in the police mission, and GARRA. The three units, which together number around 180 police officers, began to operate together as necessary.
Dr. Artur Dian, SRG’s supervisor, explains:
“Depending on the magnitude of the operation, GARRA helps us in an eventual incursion or making our perimeter while we perform the closest tactical entry. This year we had an operation where information indicated that a group of fifteen to thirty criminals would explode ATMs in a city in a certain region of the interior of São Paulo. These criminals would have several escape options since we did not have the exact location of the attack. SRG acted with thirty police officers and GARRA supported with twenty more. The criminals blew up the ATMs but we managed to track them down at a huge farm they had fled to. So we made the tactical entry of the farmhouse, with GARRA providing perimeter security and the necessary support.”
Dian is a highly dedicated professional with a career spanning more than 2 decades. He has trained with counterpart units in the United States, Germany, Colombia, Spain, France and Italy.
Missions and training with Aerotactic Service are also conducted, since the use of the helicopter is essential and indispensable in special operations.
SRG is a unit that remains ready, with its men engaged in two types of situation. The first is to support the DEIC and any PCESP unit in planned operations after deep investigation by the intelligence sectors. In this case, the group receives information, surveys the site and determines the number of police officers to be deployed, weapons and equipment to be used, and other key details. Then, if necessary, they can also do specific training in preparation for the operation.
The second situation is to deal with a crisis set up as a hostage event or an immediate action where SRG support will be needed in high-risk missions against heavily armed criminals. And the Group, by its characteristic and qualification of its policemen, is constantly employed. When not responding to an incident, the Group’s cops are in training.
Most of the actions take place during the hours of darkness. SRG uses only Chevrolet Trailblazer vehicles with three police officers assigned. Each of the three SRG tactical teams has ten investigators and one of them is in charge. It is interesting to note that the teams are totally autonomous in terms of capabilities. Among each team’s elements are those who specialize in the use of explosives — whether for tactical entry or to disarm a suspected explosive device — and snipers.
No One Asked You To Come Here
Entry into the SRG is voluntary. The police officer must have at least five years of police experience or at least one tactical qualification. Applicants’ resumes and fact sheets are reviewed by a SRG board, then the candidate goes through a physical fitness and shooting test. If accepted he begins a forty-day training course, but from the beginning he’s already assigned to one of the three teams.
In training the student learns or enhances martial arts techniques, especially Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu. He improves shots techniques using pistols and rifles, learns nighttime operations, tactical entries, sniper shots, explosive breaching, and the equipment used by the SRG.
The Group always seeks to study, understand and learn from real cases that have occurred with other police units in Brazil and around the world. This reflects a desire to constantly improve tactics, doctrine, and the use of new equipment.
Uniforms and Equipment
As of this writing each SRG officer usually carries around 20kg of equipment, including a Taurus 840 or Glock 40SW pistol, both .40 caliber (some use 9mm pistols), plus the 5.56mm caliber assault rifle such as Imbel MD97, Imbel IA2 or Colt AR-15. The group also has the Imbel FAL 7.62mm. For sniper shots the Imbel AGLC 7.62mm or AR-10 are used, and the submachine guns Taurus MT-40 (.40), FAMAE .40 and Heckler & Koch MP5 9mm are also available. Officers carry at least four extra magazines for pistols and six for rifles and submachine guns. The shotguns used are the semi-automatic Benelli and the CBC pump action.
For tactical entires in confined environments at night, the group has night vision goggles. The helmet and ballistic vest provide protection against 9mm and .44 pistol, and up to 7.62mm rifle shots.
Says Dr. Artur,
“Because of the amount of equipment we carry, physical training is fundamental. We always say, the easiest day was yesterday. Our training is specific and intense”,
The SRG uniform has evolved since its inception, all to suit the environment in which the policemen of the group predominantly operate – the urban one.
The uniforms are stained with gray, beige, brown and green, all in a more mixed and diffused way, which provides greater concealment in the midst of the city scenery both day and night. In rural areas, with cliffs or forests, it is also efficient.
“Security Worked If We Don’t Have To Act”
“This is prevention. When you have to act, it’s because something went wrong. Planning, prevention, coordination, research work and intelligence are fundamental in these situations. The rest is containment of damage.” (Dr. Artur)
The SRG has undergone several training and specialization courses for the Confederations Cup (2013), World Cup (2014) and Olympic Games (2016). With the participation of delegations from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany, extremist groups could be motivated to carry out attacks against athletes of these nations using these events of great worldwide visibility.
Among these exercises was the simulated terrorist attack scenario, developed in partnership with the US State Department at the US Consulate in São Paulo.
Dr. Artur explains.
“The antiterror course with the US State Department was focused on research and prevention. There was a lot of worry about events like the Olympics. There were FBI and DEA professionals who worked on situations like September 11 and the Boston Marathon (April 15, 2013). They brought important experiences.”
There was also the inter-agency exercise carried out by the Special Operations Command of the Brazilian Army. More than twenty countries, including the USA, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Indonesia, and Chile sent observers to follow up on the exercises. More than 280 civilian police, military personnel and members of the Brazilian Air Force, Brazilian Navy and Federal Police conducted the training. Around thirty civilian and military special operations groups participated from several Brazilian states, plus the Armed Forces. There were seventeen workshops over seven days aimed at preventing and suppressing terrorism, with scenarios similar to the Bataclan Theater, Saint Denis (Stade de France), massacres at American schools, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
In precision shooting training the SRG scored highest among all those present.
Joint action with other forces is constant in SRG training and allows the Group to follow NATO’s protocols to combat terrorism, which say that it’s impossible to be successful at the fight against terror without the participation of several agencies involved. Networking, jointly in such cases, is essential.
Fortunately, the major events of international importance that placed Brazil in the spotlight were carried out without any incidents of terrorism. The success of this security in São Paulo is largely due to the SRG.
The Group’s biggest work load today is comprised of action taken against gangs of heavily armed and organized criminals. Their criminal activities expose the civilian population to risks, when they explode ATMs for example. Against these gangs SRG has been widely employed by the authorities, discouraging criminals from continuing in this practice, continuously operating in a surgical and rapid manner.
After all, mistakes for them are inadmissible. This is not the SRG policy.
-João Paulo Moralez
This article provided to you today for your education and edification on behalf of ADS Inc., members of JTF Awesome. Follow them on Instagram, @ads_inc, or on Facebook, /ADS, Inc/.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: João Paulo Zeitoun Moralez is a seasoned journalist, photographer and editor from Brazil. His work has been seen in such magazines as ASAS magazine and Força Policial, as well as the UK’s Flypast, and he recently published a book on the EMB-312 Tucano through Harpia Publishing. Moralez specializes in aviation, military, and security matters.