Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were developed by the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1960s. Due to the tremendous violence and the vast social unrest, police officers complained about not being prepared to enter situations that were particularly dangerous. This led to the creation of a paramilitary branch to supplement police forces. Today, there are around 1,200 SWAT teams nationwide.
While some police departments require time on the SWAT team as part of officer training; training and recruitment for SWAT teams are generally more elite than regular police training. Aside from physical fitness, which involves being able to do long distance runs and agility courses while wearing body armor among other things, marksmanship training is also crucial. SWAT team members are required to know how to fire at moving and stationary targets and how to use firepower in a barricade or hostage situation with several different weapons. This includes the use of practice scenarios where officers can practice their techniques in an environment as close to the real situation as possible. Due to the need to remain in peak condition, SWAT units never stop training, and many specialize further into careers as hostage negotiators, surveillance experts, snipers, or explosives experts.
The usual arsenal for a member of a SWAT unit includes several different types of guns, such as a powerful handgun, a submachine gun, and a shot gun. They also carry body armor, flash and hand grenades, binoculars, night vision goggles, tear gas, and alternate types of rounds (made from foam, wood, rubber, or bean bags). SWAT teams have their own transportation ranging from fast and agile cars for fast movement, to mobile command centers for long term engagements.
Despite their years of expert training, SWAT officers are trained to use their training as a last resort. Their goal is to prevent the loss of unnecessary life, including those of the criminals they are trying to apprehend. SWAT teams are usually called in for high-risk warrants, hostage and barricade situations, high-risk protection details, terrorist attacks, and riot control.
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