Guest Author - Vance Rowe
The SWAT or Special Weapons And Tactics Team is basically the Special Forces of a police department. It is not for just anybody and not anybody can join. All police departments have very rigorous requirements to become a SWAT Team member and some may vary by police department.
The very first SWAT Team was formed in the late 1960’s by a man named John Nelson. Nelson had the idea of coming up with a team that was specially trained and equipped with special weapons to handle various hazardous duties such as riot control and hostage situations. Nelson presented the idea to Inspector Darryl Gates, who later became the controversial Chief Darryl Gates of the Los Angeles Police Department. It was this police department that the first SWAT Team was officially formed. Inspector Gates liked and approved the idea and first came up with the name Special Weapons Attack Team but this name was shot down by the police chief. Gates liked the acronym of SWAT and wanted to keep it so he came up with Special Weapons And Tactics.
A couple of famous incidents involving the first SWAT Teams included a stand off in 1970 with the Black Panthers that lasted for about four hours and a barricaded situation with the SLA or Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 that was nationally broadcast on television and radio and was in the media for days afterward.
The SWAT Teams are made up of volunteers of police departments that have to undergo rigorous training and interviewing phases. Most of the training is based on timing whether it is running, physical training, i.e. push ups; sit ups, weight lifting, etc…
Prospective candidates also have to be able to fire and have extensive knowledge of various weaponry and must be proficient at shooting while on the run, shooting at moving targets, rappelling down walls, jumping, climbing and as I mentioned already, running.
There is an extensive interview and psychological testing phase to see how well candidates can think on their feet in a hurry and to see if they can handle pressure well. Most police departments also require certain tenure in the police department as well before being considered for the SWAT Team. Some of the duties of a SWAT Team include Hostage situations, riot control, executing arrest warrants in potentially hazardous situations, being a sniper, special security for visiting dignitaries and counter terrorism. Some of the weapons they use include carbines, machine guns, high powered rifles, sniper rifles, battering rams special night vision goggles and thermo graphic cameras.
It takes a special person to be a member of this special team.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 1975 television series: S.W.A.T starring the likes of Steve Forrest and Robert Urich and the lesser known people like Rod Perry, James Coleman and Mark Shera. Then of course there was the exhilarating opening music by Barry De Vorzon. Who did not get an adrenaline rush when that music played? I certainly did. Here is some trivia for you. Rod Perry of the original television series played LL Cool J’s father in the 2006 movie version of SWAT starring Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J and the SWAT van in the movie was driven by none other than Steve “Hondo Harrelson” Forrest of the original television series as well.