SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. It is an enforcement unit of law that makes use of special tactics and light weapons in a military style to carry out operations that are high in risks and thus the uniformed regular police are not well equipped and trained to handle. Globally, the acronym is used generically as a colloquial when referring to this specific kind of law enforcement unit. The units play a number of roles comprising of hostage rescue, confrontation of criminals who are heavily armed, countering terrorism, entering buildings that are either barricaded or armored and operations involving arrests that are very risky.
In order for the SWAT to carry out its operations, it is highly equipped and armed with firearms that are specialized for use in specific scenarios and they include assault rifles, riot control agents, submachine guns, sniper rifles, breaching shotguns as well as stun grenades. Some of the specialized equipment used by this team of law enforcement unit comprise of armored vehicles, heavy body armor, entry tools, advanced vision optics used at night, ballistic shields as well as motion detectors. The equipment used for detecting motion helps in the determination of the position of people who have taken people hostages and the hostages within any specific building or structure that is enclosed.
The term SWAT was first used in 1964 by the Police Department of Philadelphia. Inspector Daryl Gates started a very prominent Special Weapons and Tactics unit in 1967 in the Police Department of Los Angeles. It was afterwards when the unit was established in the police department of various state, city and federal organizations under distinct names. What gates did was to support the concept for the unit, provide moral support to his people and even empower them take up the initiative; he did not develop it as claimed by many. Initially, the unit was referred to as the Special Weapons Assault Team before ED Davis rejected it for it to be given its current name.
The unit first became known to the public through LAPD. It carried out its first operation to the North of Los Angeles in the Valley of San Joaquin where the border of Tulare and Kern counties exist. During that time, the Californian Delano community of farmers was staging protests that were covered on the media throughout the U.S. After watching and monitoring how the unit carried out its operations during the protest, the Police Department of Delano established its own unit of SWAT. Officer John Nelson was the man behind the establishment of LAPD unit that was well equipped and trained to respond to critical situations that feature shootings in order to manage such scenarios without ending up with many police casualties.
The first Special Weapons and Tactics unit comprised of 15 teams each having 4 men who are well trained and equipped for the tasks at hand. The 60 officers were trained every month, given many benefits and a status that is special. The units of LAPD were dubbed the Division of Metro’s ‘D Platoon’ and also served during civil unrests as the police department’s special facility security unit. On 9th 1969, the LAPD Special Weapons and Tactics unit was deployed to confront the Black Panthers, an operation that lasted 4 hours before the subjects surrendered; 3 officers and 3 panthers were critically injured during the operation. The unit was accepted as an integral LOS Angeles city and county resource by 1974.
In order to become a member of the SWAT unit, one must undergo a selection process that is very rigorous before proceeding for training. Being a military veteran is an added advantage, but not a compulsory requirement. An applicant must pass various exams that involve psychology, oral, written and agility or physical tests.