SWAT

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SWAT (an acronym for Special Weapons And Tactics; originally Special Weapons Attack Team) is a specialized paramilitary police unit in major United States city police departments, which is trained to perform dangerous operations. These can include coordinated attacks on selected targets such as heavily armed criminals in secure locations. SWAT teams are equipped with specialized firearms including submachine guns, carbines, specialized tear gas, concussion grenades, and high-powered rifles for marksmen (snipers). They often have specialized equipment including heavy body armor, entry tools, steel reinforced boots and night vision optics.

Contents

History

The first SWAT unit was created in the city of Delano, California, in the 1960s in response to the farmworker uprisings led by the then-new UFW headed by César Chávez. This unit was a department-wide team which received specialized crowd control, sniper/counter-sniper, and counter-force training.

In the 1960s, Los Angeles was experiencing problems with sniping incidents against police officers and civilians. Ordinary police officers handled those situations poorly, since they received limited weapons training, very little weapons practice, and effectively no training in team combat tactics or "counterforce" capability. Classic "riot police" (crowd control) squads did not fare well either. Officer John Nelson came up with the idea to form a specially trained and equipped unit, intended to respond to and manage critical situations while minimizing police casualties. Inspector Darryl F. Gates approved this idea, and he formed a small select group of volunteer officers. After seeing the Delano Police Department in action on the news broadcasts, Los Angeles Police Department officers attended their training, then expanded on the concept.

This first SWAT unit was initially constituted with fifteen teams of four men each, for a total staff of sixty. These officers were given special status and benefits. They were required to attend special monthly training. This unit also served as a security unit for police facilities during civil unrest. The LAPD SWAT units were organized as "D Platoon" in the Metro division.

The first significant deployment of LAPD's SWAT unit was on 9 December 1969, in a four-hour confrontation with members of the Black Panthers. The Panthers finally surrendered, with only three Panthers and three officers being injured. By 1974, there was a general acceptance of SWAT as a resource for the city and county of Los Angeles.

On the afternoon of 17 May 1974, elements of a group which called itself the "Symbionese Liberation Army" (SLA), a group of heavily-armed leftists, barricaded themselves in a residence on East 54th Street at Compton Avenue. Coverage of the siege was broadcast to millions via television and radio and featured in the world press for days after. Negotiations were opened with the barricaded suspects on 26 separate occasions, 18 prior to the introduction of tear gas, and 10 during the ensuing confrontation. Police units did not fire until the SLA had fired several volleys of semi-automatic and fully automatic gunfire at them. In spite of the 3,772 rounds fired by the SLA, no uninvolved citizens or police officers sustained injury from gunfire.

During the gun battle, a fire erupted inside the residence. The cause of the fire is officially unknown, although police sources speculated that an errant round ignited one of the suspect's molotov cocktails. Others suspect that the repeated use of tear gas grenades, which function by burning chemicals at high temperatures, started the structure fire. All six of the suspects suffered multiple gunshot wounds and perished in the ensuing blaze.

During the 1984 Summer Olympics, the LAPD SWAT team provided security, often undergoing grueling hours. Another famous incident was the North Hollywood shootout, which took place on 28 February 1997.

Since its inception, LAPD SWAT Team members have effected the safe rescue of numerous hostages, arrested scores of violent suspects and earned hundreds of commendations and citations, including several Medals of Valor, the Department's highest award for heroism in the line of duty. The LAPD SWAT Team, on average, handles ninety barricaded suspect incidents and serves fifty high-risk warrants a year.

Training

SWAT applicants undergo rigorous selection and training, similar to the training some special operations units in the military receive. Emphasis is placed on physical fitness so an officer will be able to withstand the rigors of close quarters battle. Additionally, officers are trained in marksmanship for the development of accurate shooting skills. Other training that could be given to potential officers includes training in explosives, sniper training, first-aid, negotiation, handling K9 units, and other areas. Of primary importance is close quarters combat training, however, as this will be their primary mission after becoming a full-fledged SWAT officer.

Tactics

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While much emphasis seems to be placed on the special weapons aspect, it is important to note that tactics is indeed the other half of the SWAT acronym. Tactics will undoubtedly vary between situations and missions, but a general overview can be given.

Before deploying, a SWAT team will review the situation at hand. The officers will be briefed on the mission: the kind of mission (such as serving a warrant, arresting a suspect, hostage rescue, or others), the physical layout of the target (the architecture of any buildings involved, for example), any available intelligence on the target, and the actual tactical plan to be used.

In a typical arrest mission, the SWAT team will attempt to move in unnoticed, if possible, to prevent the suspect from fleeing. Once on-site and in place, the team will attempt to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

SWAT is very much reserved in terms of hostage rescue/barricaded suspect situations. The idea behind a SWAT mission is to leave with the least amount of casualties as is possible. This involves incapacitating or restraining suspects rather than using lethal force at any opportunity. Although SWAT is equipped to use force, they generally keep casualties to a minimum, when possible to bring suspects into custody.

In the typical SWAT call-up situation, stealth entry and movement techniques are used to conceal the presence of the SWAT officers. Stealth movement is used when an area is small enough to move through quickly but silently, or when there is no immediate threat to officer or hostage safety. However, when obstacles or building size prevent effective stealth entries, a team may force its way into an area using dynamic entry tactics if needed. The team would move in to arrest the suspect rapidly and quickly, without any more violence than is needed. Oftentimes, the strike is so quick that the suspect is incapable of resisting in a significant manner.

Other missions require different tactics. In hostage rescue situations, the team will form a perimeter around the area, and call in negotiators to attempt a peaceful resolution. If the use of force is deemed necessary, then the SWAT team will attack to neutralize any threats to the hostages. Again, dynamic entry tactics are used to gain quick entrance to any building involved in the situation. Non-lethal flash-bangs could be employed in such dynamic entrances to temporarily stun or incapacitate any suspects (but leave the hostages unharmed), providing a window of opportunity to strike.

SWAT equipment

SWAT teams use specially-manufactured equipment designed for close-quarters combat (CQB) in an urban environment. The particular pieces of equipment vary from unit to unit, but there are some consistent trends in what they wear and use.

Individual clothing and equipment usually consists of fire-proof Nomex coveralls, a body armor vest, an outer tactical vest for carrying ammunition and other gear, Nomex gloves, balaclava, protective eye goggles, Kevlar helmet or gas mask, flashlight, soft-soled urban boots, flexi-cuffs, and thigh ammo pouches. While a wide variety of weapons are used by SWAT teams, the usual weapons include submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, flashbang (concussion) and tear gas grenades, and semi-automatic handguns. Popular submachine guns used by SWAT teams include the 9mm Heckler & Koch MP5 and 10mm MP5/10, with or without suppressors. Common rifles include the M16 and M4 Carbine. In departments that have a higher budget, newer guns such as the Heckler & Koch G36 are being issued. Firing a standard 5.56 mm rifle round, and a collapsible stock, it possesses both high stopping power as well as a small footprint. To breach doors quickly, battering rams, shotguns, or explosive charges can be used to break the lock or hinges, or even demolish the door frame itself.

SWAT units may also employ armored cars for insertion, maneuvering, or during the actual assault. Helicopters may be used to provide aerial reconnaissance or even insertion via rappelling. To avoid detection during insertion in urban environments, SWAT units may also use modified buses or other seemingly normal vehicles. Such vehicles are usually only found in larger cities that can afford and justify their purchases.

For tactical reconnaissance purposes, a team may be equipped with binoculars, fiber optic cameras, thermal cameras, mirror rigs, or a variety of audio or video surveillance equipment. In nighttime operations, SWAT units may be equipped with night vision goggles.

Cultural references

This kind of police unit quickly became well known with the premiere of the short-lived but notorious television series S.W.A.T. in the 1970s, which was panned as being overly violent and unrealistic with the characters regularly undergoing missions that usually happen only once in a lifetime for actual teams. A later series of PC games with a SWAT theme was authorized by retired Chief Darryl Gates more than a decade later.

During the 1990s, there was also a cartoon TV show called SWAT Kats.

In 2003, the movie S.W.A.T. starring Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell was released in theaters. In the movie, an arrested drug kingpin is transported by a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team led by Jackson's character out of the city and into federal custody. Plans go awry when the kingpin offers $100 million to anyone who can free him.

There is a series of computer games by Sierra Entertainment and developed by Vivendi Universal and Irrational Games under the name of SWAT, in which the player commands a SWAT team.

SWAT units in the United States

Though initially confined to metropolitan cities, today virtually every city with a police force in excess of a handful of officers has a paramilitary tactical unit. A variety of abbreviations and acronyms are used for these organizations, which operate at federal, state, and local levels.

Federal agencies

State agencies

County agencies

City and town police departments

Associations

Synonyms for SWAT

Similar units outside the United States

External links

fr:Special Weapons And Tactics ja:SWAT pt:SWAT sl:Special Weapons and Tactics fi:SWAT zh:特警隊

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