What Does SWAT Stand For?

SWAT team members, some armed with assault rifles, prepare for an exercise.
SWAT team members, some armed with assault rifles, prepare for an exercise.

Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT)

The Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) is a law enforcement unit in the US that uses specialized military weapons and tactics to deal with high-risk and emergencies. The SWAT team is specially trained and heavily equipped. The unit was established mainly to deal promptly with bank robberies as well as intercepting the activities of heavily armed criminals, terrorists, high-risk scenarios and controlling crowds while at the same time reducing the number of police casualties.

Origin And Development

SWAT was developed in the 1960s by the Los Angeles police department after they watched the Delano Police SWAT unit of California responding to riots through the use of crowd control, surveillance, and sniper skill. The LAPD formed its first SWAT unit of 60 members who served as security units during civil unrests and had to attend regular monthly training. The LAPD SWAT unit had its first important mission in December 1969 during a confrontation with the Black Panthers. Other police departments in the country formed their own SWAT unit under special names. Some of the activities the SWAT teams were involved in the 20th century include the War on Drugs, Watts Riots, war with the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Columbine high school massacre.

Organisation Of The SWAT Team

Most of the SWAT teams within the US are drawn from the existing law enforcement personnel after which they receive training for emergency situations. The group is composed of a team leader and an assistant, sharpshooters, grenadiers, negotiators, entry personnel, and observer teams.

Training And Weapons Used By SWAT

Training SWAT teams is a lifelong experience as troops have to keep developing better tactics and to sharpen their minds to develop quick decision making and analysis capabilities. SWAT uses some highly specialized weapons whose selection depends on the situation they are dealing. These weapons range from lethal to nonlethal including noise cannons, assault rifle carbines, sub-machine guns, semi-automatic pistols, sniper rifles, and stun grenades. They also use tactical aids such as stingers, tear gas, flash bangs, battering rams, knee pads, gloves, rappelling harnesses, their weapons are fitted with fore grips, laser pointers, and optics.

SWAT Units Within The US

Some of the federal agencies with SWAT teams include the United States Department of Energy (Special Response Teams and Special Response Force), the US Department of Homeland Security (BORSTAR), federal province special response team, maritime safety and security response team, the US secret service Emergency Response Team and the Counter Assault Team, Hostage Rescue team, FBI regional SWAT teams, and the US Park Police SWAT unit.

SWAT In The 21st Century

SWAT has retained much of its functions and undergone various developments due to technological advances in military equipment and communication which have led to the success of their operations. The unit today deals mainly with terrorist activities which have plagued the 21st century including the September 11 attacks in the US. Due to the rapid formation of SWAT units over the years, there are questions about the efficiency of these teams particularly in California which has led to the establishment of standardized requirements and regulations for SAWT officers, the training of personnel, organization, and deployment of SWAT teams.


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