Hollywood movies and television shows have glamorized “the SWAT cop.” Being a member of an elite Special Weapons And Tactics team takes a lot of hard work. A rise in violence in America has created a need for specialized police teams with special weapons and skills. However, being selected to a SWAT team is not as easy as simply applying for a job. Here are some fundamental steps in reaching dreams of being a SWAT cop.
- Become a police officer or sheriff’s deputy. The position of SWAT officer is not an entry-level assignment. Most officers must spend between three and five years as a patrol officer before even being considered for a tactical team. Most state police, large urban police, and sheriff’s departments have a SWAT team (sometimes called SRT, TRT, SOG, or another acronym). Other smaller communities might join a taskforce or multi-jurisdictional team. Yet other police agencies do not have a team at all, but rely on the local sheriff or state team. Applicants should be sure the department s/he is applying for has a position on SWAT.
- Attend training. After the police academy, officers are usually required to attend frequent training to stay up-to-date with legal changes, firearms proficiency, and other aspects such as courtroom testimony or investigative interviews. Become involved with as much training as possible, especially those that require an officer to stay safe on the streets. Classes that are favorable to a SWAT applicant might include defensive tactics, firearms, and legalities with police force.
- Stay in peak physical shape. Most SWAT teams have a physical fitness test during the selection process, much like those required to become a police officer. The tests might include running, pushups, sit-ups, or obstacle courses. Staying in great shape is the best way to prepare oneself for the selection process, instead of trying to cram to meet requirements when an opening is announced.
- Think “teamwork." Applicants’ peers and supervisors are generally questioned during the selection process. SWAT commanders do not take officers who have been unable to work in a team environment. Helping out other officers and taking constructive criticism are good ways to help your chances of getting an assignment to SWAT.
- Stay motivated. Being a police officer has its ups and downs. SWAT officers are the ones whose resilience gives them positive attitudes toward the job and life. Optimism is always a good quality for someone looking to join SWAT.
As one can see, a lot of pieces must fall into place before one is accepted to a SWAT team. A lot of hard work, patience, physical fitness, and a positive attitude are those parts of the puzzle under control by the applicant. Remember that elite individuals make up an elite unit!
Art Holecek has been a Police Officer for nineteen years, and served on a SWAT team for six years.
FIAT SWAT Team