American History / Purpose And History Of Swat

Purpose And History Of Swat

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Autor:  anton  09 March 2011
Tags:  Purpose,  History
Words: 1653   |   Pages: 7
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The History and Purpose of S.W.A.T.

SWAT. The acronym invokes so many thoughts - danger, fighting crime, shootings, heavily artillery, TV, movies and more. The reality of SWAT is that it is all of that and more. When the acronym is fully expanded it translates to “special weapons and tactics” or as it was originally developed, “special weapons assault team”. SWAT is a specialized, elite police unit trained to execute dangerous and specific operations that basic and even intermediate police training is not intended to handle. Commonly, many assume from knowledge gained from TV and movies about SWAT. These assumptions are often skewed because what happens on real missions is not always as entertaining as what is seen on the silver screen. The history, purpose, requirements, training, equipment, and tactics used during missions are all separate and important aspects in understanding SWAT.

To completely understand why SWAT teams were developed, one must look at this history of swat, where it began, why it began, and how it progressed to be where modern teams are today. The first SWAT squad was established in Delano, California, where the local department was having difficulties containing the uprisings of local farm workers. This squad was established by training the entire department in crowd control along with sniper and anti-sniper tactics.

At the same time, Los Angeles police units were experiencing difficulties in handling situations in which riots and snipers were terrorizing basic police units. In response to these difficulties, LAPD officer John Nelson presented the concept of a squad which was specially trained to handle such situations to Inspector Darryl F. Gates. Gates approved the concept of a “highly disciplined” team that “utilizes special weapons and tactics” to combat the highly unusual, dangerous and difficult situations. LAPD SWAT first sent the members of the volunteer group of officers to train at the Delano Police Department where the first SWAT teams were trained.

The first LAPD SWAT unit was comprised of 15 four-man teams. Each member had specialized training and experience from prior military service. Members volunteered from various police assignments, for example, patrol.

In 1971, the members of the LAPD special weapons and tactics unit were assigned to full-time duty in the Metropolitan Division. The Metropolitan Division had formerly been organized into 3 platoons with the denotations of “A”, “B” and “C” units. The SWAT teams were denoted as a separate platoon named “D” platoon and at the same time received the acronym “SWAT”. These full time units were initiated to defend against dangerous situations that could arise at any given time because of the difficulty the department faced in generating a trained response team in momentary notice.

The 1971 development of a full-time squad formally known as “SWAT” mirrors that of modern teams. There are many formats of SWAT teams today, but there are three basic formats. A Type Three team is a part-time designated to handle high-risk situations requiring specialized weapons with limited resources and capabilities. These teams should be capable of working in a CBRN environment (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) absent of vapors and liquids. Type Two teams are part-time or full-time teams capable of everything that a Type Three team can do but are able to execute extraordinary special operations in multiple environment types. A Type One team is a Type Two team, but the only difference is that Type One team is a dedicated, full-time team and aren’t members of other special force groups. The Albeline Police Deparment Tactical Unit in Texas is comprised of a 25 man squad where officers are primarily assigned to patrol. In situations where the Tactical Unit is needed, these officers are notified and will report. Albeline PD’s Tactical Unit is an example of a Type Three SWAT unit. In other, larger units such as the elite NYPD Emergency Services Unit, 450 men and women are trained in rescue and SWAT. All members of this large-scale squad is on-call 24 hours a day. The NYPD ESU is one of the largest full-time tactics units in the country. This is a prime example of a Type One tactics team, where there is an independent, full-time dedicated unit separate from patrol units. After knowing what each unit is comprised of, it is imperative to explore what their purpose is in the police department and community.

The purpose of SWAT teams are to respond to dangerous hi-risk incidents that require tactical operation skills more advanced than a police officer receives in basic training. Situations in which SWAT teams are utilized are hostage incidents, armed barricade incidents, high risk warrant service, high risk vehicle stops, dignitary protection, and surveillance assistance. Swat teams routinely assist smaller agencies that do not have the manpower or resources to have a tactical operations team of their own. The SWAT team’s primary objective in each situation is to resolve each situation in the most peaceful way possible.

Before a member of SWAT is made a member of the team he must undergo a selection process. Typical requirements in order to become an applicant for the special team is at least two to three years of law enforcement experience (field experience). One of the requirements is that the officer must volunteer. There are no officers who are forced into or are promoted to be on the squad. The squad is volunteer only. Out of the pool of volunteer applicants, outstanding officers are selected to move on through the selection process. Outstanding officers can be defined as officers who are dedicated, disciplined, motivated and willing to sacrifice for team members. The next steps in the selection process are physical and mental examinations. Only officers who are in excellent mental condition and physical condition are selected. Typical physical examinations include running and strength. These examinations are requirements that must be met monthly. Each officer is subject to a battery of tests. The psychological examinations assess the officer’s ability to reason, sustain concentration, and other mental tests. These tests are aimed to weed out those candidates who would be unable to sustain dedication to the team and situations on a daily basis. Officers must be mentally and physically acute to be able to withstand the stresses of intense situations. After these rigorous assessments, selected officers are then sent to training.

Once a team member is picked, it takes an average of two years before the new member is trained to minimum level requirements. In training, the SWAT member or officer learns how to increase his survivability and effectiveness in difficult and dangerous situations. One method of training that some members of SWAT teams receive is called “Israeli Anti-Terrorist Training”. In this school of training, students are taught hostage rescue in buildings, aviation, and bus assault, tactical roadblocks, high risk arrests, dealing with booby traps, explosives, car bomb suicide bomber in a building or vehicle, riots, countering ambushes on police, defense tactics and tactical shooting. This is one of the most comprehensive schools, where completion of the school takes over a month. Other training that is be given to potential officers includes training in explosives, sniper training, first-aid, negotiation, handling K9 units, and other areas. Close quarters combat training is the primary mission after becoming a full-fledged SWAT officer. A large part of each officers training is how to utilize the equipment they will on a daily basis.

The particular pieces of equipment vary from unit to unit, but some of the equipment that the officers wear and use is the same. Typical individual clothing and equipment is level C PPE(personal protective equipemnt) fire proof coveralls or jumpsuit, bullet proof vest, an outer vest used for carrying ammunition and other equipment, heavy duty gloves, a NIOSH-approved protective mask, protective eye wear, ear protection, flashlight, combat boots, and thigh ammo pouches. The aforementioned gear is all for holding gear or for physical protection. Some of the most common weapons used are submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, flashbang (concussion) and tear gas grenades, and semi-automatic handguns. These weapons have a variety of uses. For example, flashbang grenades and tear gas grenades are used to render an adversary in an inattentive state upon breaching an area.

Breaching is a type of tactic where a team will rush into an area and secure the area including all persons in that area. Tactics such as a breaching order are planned in advance. Before deploying, a SWAT team will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the situation the unit is about to enter. Within this meeting, the officers are briefed on the type of mission, the layout of the area, any intelligence on the target, and the specific objective of the mission. Some specific tactics used in SWAT are stealth movements, breaches, K9 (use of canines, dogs), verbal commands, and breaking windows and doors.

When considering the dangers or rigors of becoming a member of a SWAT unit or a tactics team, it is very simple to see that SWAT is not as it is depicted in the movies and TV. There is a lot more training, danger, hard work and mental toughness that is required to be a member of a SWAT team. Once an officer becomes a member of an elite team such as SWAT, he is part of the history of SWAT as well. Each individual member has the responsibility to maintain the integrity and purpose of SWAT - to resolve each situation in the most peaceful way possible.

Works Cited

1. (n.d.). About the SORT Unit. Delaware State Police Special Operations Response Team. Retrieved April 1, 2006. From

2. (n.d.). SWAT/Tactical Teams. SWAT/Tactical Teams. Retrieved March 29, 2006.

3. (n.d.). History of S.W.A.T. Official Website of the Los Angeles Police Department. Retrieved April 3, 2006.

4. (n.d.). S.W.A.T. Team – Overview and History. The Albeline Police Department. Retrieved April 4, 2006.

5. (n.d.). SWAT. Wickpedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 5, 2006. From

6. (n.d.). SWAT Team. Bay County’s Sheriff’s Department. Retrieved April 2, 2006.

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