The increasing threat of armed terrorist violence in the mid-1970s brought about the need for changes to law enforcement service. Well organized and heavily armed criminal groups underlined the need for an equally sophisticated and strategic police response.
In 1976, the RCMP formed the first Emergency Response Team (ERT) to address the growing threat of critical incidents with levels of danger beyond normal expectations and exceeding the safe operation limits of regular police personnel.
Prior to this, a Hostage and Rescue Patrol (HARP) team fulfilled the role, although its purpose was strictly one of containment. Since then, ERTs have borrowed and modified tactics used in SWAT and military operations and combined them with police techniques to create an all-purpose and highly adaptable law enforcement team
-To provide tactical support against potential armed resistance if a situation deteriorates to the point that loss of life is imminent and where all other realistic attempts at resolution have failed.
-To preserve the lives of hostages, team members, and perpetrators.
-To resolve all incidents peacefully with minimum force.
An ERT consists of members trained extensively in tactical procedures and weaponry. The highly specialized skills of ERT members prepare them for resolving matters involving armed aggression and resistance, such as:
-Serious Crime arrest warrants
-Armed barricaded subjects
Team members must learn to move with precision in dynamic and stealth situations, during the day or night. They must adapt to all types of terrain, locations, and weather conditions, penetrate barricades and strongholds, gather and preserve evidence, and, if necessary, engage in close-quarter combat, evacuate hostages, and capture offenders.
Depending on the circumstances, ERTs work as a separate unit or in cooperation with other RCMP special operations units including Tactical Troops, Proceeds of Crime, Drug Enforcement, Police Service Dog Teams, and Protective Services. ERTs also assist Government of Canada departments, such as Canada Customs and Revenue, and join forces and share resources with other local law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime.
ERT is to Canada as SWAT is to America.