POLICE Magazine

AUG 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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Page 36 of 68

34 POLICE AUGUST 2018 S WAT is under a lot of pressure these days. Budgets for training and equipment have been cut. When SWAT is called out, activists decry its equipment and tactics as too milita- ristic. And activists, politicians, journalists, and Internet trolls all second guess every- thing a team achieves or fails to achieve in its missions. If it's hard to be a police officer in the 21st century, it's even harder to be a law enforcement tactical operator. Despite the criticism, SWAT has a long history of positive outcomes. Unfortunately, there have been some disastrous out- comes as well. So the goal of many in the tactical community is to improve SWAT and that begins with operator selection. THE RIGHT PEOPLE S WAT has long been a plum assignment in law enforcement. But it takes a special kind of law enforcement officer to want to be a SWAT team member. e first thing most people focus on when an officer aspires to join a SWAT team is the level of physical fitness and endur- ance required. ey think about things like timed runs, obstacle courses, and demonstrations of the practical strength necessary to perform SWAT missions. But many agencies are not just looking for the best athletes or even the best shots on the force. or Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), says SWAT leaders are constantly looking for ways to make standards fit the missions of the team. He says that means team members must be physically fit but also mentally and emotionally capable of doing the job. "ey need to be of the highest integrity and they have to be able to make good decisions," he says. Bob Gallegos, a retired LAPD SWAT officer who serves on the POLICE Advisory Board, agrees. "You want somebody who can think fast on their feet," he says, adding that the process needs to be both "taxing and fair." One big problem facing many agencies is that some candi- dates for tactical teams change their minds after selection and training. at means teams have to be sure they select people who are willing to do the hard work of training and callouts be- fore they invest in training. Most teams are not full time and their SWAT duties are sec- ondary to their everyday police work, Eells explains. "Officers on the SWAT team have to work shifts in their normal assignments and then train and put themselves on call. It requires you to sac- rifice a lot of your personal time," he says. Another factor that makes it difficult for agencies to find the right people for SWAT duty is the nature of the work. All law en- forcement duty is hazardous and all officers have to accept that risk. But signing on with a SWAT team requires an officer to face some of the darkest of human behavior, even more so than stan- dard police duty. "It takes a very resilient person to engage in this kind of work for a long time," says Eells. BETTER ORGANIZATION F inding enough officers to form a SWAT team can be a chal- lenge even for mid-size agencies. For smaller agencies, it's Improving SWA EXPERTS SAY THE CHANCE FOR POSITIVE OUTCOMES DURING TACTICAL TEAM CALLOUTS WILL INCREASE WITH BETTER SELECTION OF TEAM MEMBERS, ORGANIZATION OF TEAMS, TRAINING OF OPERATORS AND COMMANDERS; AND WITH MORE EFFECTIVE USE OF EQUIPMENT AND TECHNOLOGY. David Griffith

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