SWAT team with weapons

SWAT: Special Weapons And Tactics

Simply put, SWAT is an acronym for Special Weapons And Tactics, and it is a paramilitary unit used by law enforcement agencies primarily in the US.

Designed as an elite team of officers, SWAT regularly responds to specialty, high-risk elements such as:

  • Hostage crises
  • Active shooter events
  • Counter-terrorism situations
  • Crowd control needs
  • High-risk search warrants

SWAT forces are ideally reserved for law enforcement situations that require skill and technique beyond the capabilities of the typical officer. By designating this team with special training and weapons, agencies can better protect and serve the public when calls include high-risk situations. Individuals arrested under such circumstances are typically facing unusually serious consequences. As such, bail requests will often coincide with the seriousness of the situation.

Training for SWAT

SWAT team members undergo extensive and ongoing training involving a wide variety of tactics and weapons. Each member is required to pass a series of oral, written, physical and psychological exams when applying for the unit, and they are typically volunteers from within the law enforcement agency.

Several factors are taken into consideration when evaluating and training team members, and these include:

  • Sniper training
  • Explosives
  • Marksmanship
  • Repelling techniques
  • Defensive tactics

A typical SWAT team consists of line officers who are on stand-by for SWAT call outs while performing their regular law enforcement duties. Due to the expense of training the team members and the moderately infrequent use of the teams, police departments utilize this structure of line officer volunteers.

Major SWAT Events

  • Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers created the catalyst that first formed the idea of organized SWAT teams in California in 1960. Responding to the riots in Delano, CA, police departments formed specialized groups to subdue the rioters.
  • The LA chapter of the Black Panthers created another significant call out for SWAT in 1969. The team responded for what amounted to a four-hour stand off which resulted in the Black Panthers finally surrendering.
  • Members of a violent, left-wing guerrilla movement out of California barricaded themselves in a Los Angeles house in 1974. SWAT responded for a multi-hour gun battle broadcast live on TV, and the heavily-armed guerrilla team members died in the confrontation.

A Brief History of SWAT

The 1960s saw the first systematic use of SWAT teams in Los Angeles, CA. After SWAT techniques were used to subdue the United Farm Workers riots in California, officers took those tactics back to LAPD to form the first officially recognized SWAT team. The use of the unit was then popularized and systematized by members of the LAPD.

Since its creation, SWAT has seen increasingly active years. An average of 65,000 SWAT call-outs are performed yearly in the US, and the typical SWAT team increases its deployment of weapons and tactics.

With access to armored vehicles, heavy body armor, specialized entry tools, submachine guns, sniper rifles and night vision optics, SWAT teams are equipped to handle extreme situations.

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