SWAT stands for Special Weapon and Tactics Unit, and it is one of the elite units in the US Police Department. As an elite squad, SWAT consists of highly trained personnels. In order to be part of the squad, all personnels need to pass certain qualifications, tests and also trainings. Have you watched SWAT the movie? Well if you’re a fan of action movies, you probably watched it couple of times already. Plus, the movie was inspired by SWAT team in real life. If you think you know everything about SWAT, you better think again, because the are lots of SWAT facts that you have never heard before.
SWAT team holds the responsibility to deal with extraordinary conditions, which usually includes hostages, hijackers and armed suspects. Moreover, SWAT also handles drug leaders, too. SWAT comes as the partner for other police officers and serve as the frontline of the mission. The SWAT team will come to clear the area before the officers come to arrest the target. Curious to know more? Here are 16 cool SWAT facts that you need to know.
1. Starting Point
Let’s start this list with the first and most important SWAT fact, which is about a guy named Charles Joseph Whitman. He decided to climb one of the towers on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin in August 1966. He managed to shoot 47 people and killing 15 of them in just a span of 90 minutes! This event leads to a huge turning point in the history of US police, surfacing the need for a specially trained unit. This is the starting point of the formation and training of SWAT.
2. Inventor of SWAT
Chief Daryl Gates is the former LAPD police officer who initiated the formation and development of the SWAT Team. Then, he was also in charge of the LAPD Metro Division, which the SWAT team is included in later. He was basically in charge of teams that handle unusual criminal activities in the city of Los Angeles, now known as the SWAT team.
3. The First SWAT Team
Moving on to the next SWAT fact, the First SWAT team ever was established as a defense team to provide security and protection for police officers during riots that happened throughout the year of 1968. The first SWAT team consisted of 15 four-man teams. The members of the team had specialized experience and prior military service. They were volunteers and willing to take training programs for one month before the Police Department officially launched the unit.
4. Guerilla Warfare
Chief Daryl Gates and other members of the LAPD studied guerilla warfare tactics from the U.S military. Guerilla warfare is a type of warfare, which uses an irregular, fast-moving strategy done by a small group of people. This study led to the reduction of the size of the SWAT team, and each member holds their own specific given purpose. Gates found out that in order to carry such extraordinary cases, a smaller number of people with specific skills is more effective and efficient.
5. First Successful Mission
The SWAT team’s first mission was to successfully catch two members of the Black Panthers, a well known armed and radical group that promotes revolutionary politics. The mission was carried out in three different places including the Black Panther’s headquarters.
40 members of the SWAT team successfully tackle the Black Panthers, leaving 3 of them and 3 police officers wounded. It was their first ever successful mission in the year of their official debut, 1969.
6. 17,000 SWAT Teams
Up to this day, there are a total of 17,000 SWAT teams. Cities with a population of more than 50.000 people would have their own SWAT unit. Also, most federal and tribal law enforcement agencies would also have their own SWAT team that might come in different names such as Special Response Team (SRT) or Emergency Response Team (ERT).
7. The Rise of SWAT
This one is also one of the most exciting SWAT facts in this list. We know that the war against drugs is a never ending battle, and in the U.S, SWAT team is one of the teams who deal with drug-related cases. Each year, there are about 50,000 SWAT raids and 100 raids daily. 80% of all these deployments are related to arrest warrants regarding drug cases. As the ongoing drug war is getting more intense each day, it means that the SWAT teams are working extra hard to win this drug war.
8. Alarming Drug Cases in America
You might wonder why so many SWAT teams existed today. Why are they getting more intense military trainings from time to time? Well, it is because Americans are addicted to drugs, which leads to so many drug dealing cases in America.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health recorded there are at least 50 million people, aged 12 and above, that are struggling with drug addiction. This alarming statistics on drug addiction leads to the emerging numbers of illegal drug dealing. More illegal drug dealers means that the SWAT team is getting more and more drug dealing raids each time.
9. Militarization Attempt
Moving on to the next SWAT fact on the list, based on the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act passed by the Congress in 1981, the U.S military has been supplying SWAT teams with military weapons and trainings. Ever since then, the public has been making speculations about them, and has also been attracting media attention ever since. They are considered more as special operation soldiers rather than social workers.
10. International Training
In 1983, three SWAT supervisors were sent to Europe to evaluate and develop techniques that were used by the military groups; German GSG-9, French GIGN, and the legendary British 22nd SAS. Then, the LAPD SWAT then implemented and developed the rigorous training in order for the LAPD SWAT team to be able to develop the true hostage rescue capability. Slowly, they prove that these training sessions are useful and impactful. They have been showing great work especially on crowd handling.
11. Breaking The All Men Stigma
We picture a SWAT Team in our head consisting of all men. It is just natural to not see any women be part of a high-risk team like this. However, Jennifer Graso broke that stigma back in 2008 when she became the first female SWAT team member in the LAPD.
Having female members contributes to its own benefits. Women might have the upperhand on negotiation skills. Despite this huge milestone for women in the SWAT teams, less than 1% of the SWAT team members are female even up to this day. If we’re talking about women emancipation, this is definitely one of the coolest SWAT facts in this list.
12. Less is Best
Having to deal with extremely dangerous conditions, the SWAT team comprises around 20-25 people, usually at 24 people. Each comes from different police and military backgrounds, but each one of them has a very specific given task and role.
It is necessary for them to be their best at their given role. Some units might have their own tactical medicine program, which consisted of 7 people: a trauma surgeon, emergency room physician, and 5 paramedics.
13. SWAT Raids Gone Wrong
There are times when the SWAT teams misunderstood the mission. In the city of Pittsburgh, for example, the SWAT team raided a wrong house. After barging into the wrong apartment and scared everyone inside, the SWAT team were sued and had to pay $80,000 for compensation.
It was a traumatizing experience for Tabitha Wermeister and her five young kids that she decided to handle the case legally. It is not the only time that things like this happen. Due to the ambiguity of the search warrants, oftentimes the SWAT team ended up overdoing it and missed the real target due to assumptions.
14. Weapon Adaptability
Now that we have come to SWAT fact number 14, it means that we’re getting closer to the end of this list. But don’t go just yet because we still have a view SWAT facts that you don’t wanna miss. The primary weapon of a SWAT team member is the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun and a Springfield 45 caliber pistol. On certain missions, they carry rifles and tear gas grenades. Every mission might require different sets of weapons to tackle down enemies.
SWAT teams must have the adaptability and agility to utilize any kind of weapon in whatever condition they might be facing. It is also important to have extra ammunition every time. This is why SWAT team members carry pockets on their vest to keep all their extra ammunition.
15. SWAT VS U.S Marine
US Marine Jose Guerena was wrongfully accused of drug selling. Guerena decided to take his gun for defense as he heard noises outside his house. Instead of robbers, it turns out that the SWAT team has stayed guard in front of his house to check for drugs.
Only within ten second after entering the house, the SWAT team shot Guerena 71 times, hitting him fatally 22 times. Later, the government admitted to being guilty and agreed to pay a $3,4 million fine. Unfortunately, this devastating mistake did not end up with job termination or any policy changes. This is probably one of SWAT facts that has become a lesson learned for the team, to make sure the same thing don’t happen again in the future.
16. Daily Life Of A SWAT Team
Bank robberies, riots, and hostage holdings are not something that happen everyday. On a daily basis, the SWAT team is out of the base at least five times a day. They are usually sent with complete military equipment for search warrants or to check on suspects daily. This leads to a problem where the SWAT teams raided the wrong target.
For the past two decades, the SWAT team has received an increase of problems by 1500%. It is not because the world is coming to an end and that evil is everywhere. However, the government had decided to take things in a military way even for the smallest and most innocent cases. Protecting and serving is overpowered by the idea of getting armed for wars. Basically, SWAT team members are living in a warzone 24/7. So, do you think you can handle it?
After knowing some of its history and its day-to-day activity, do you think you make the cut to be a SWAT team member? Being a SWAT team member takes serious efforts and perseverance. Once you get accepted, it is the beginning of an even harder time. So, are you ready for it?