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...
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