Tags: Law Enforcement | law enforcement | SWAT | history

11 Facts About History of SWAT

By    |   Wednesday, 17 June 2015 09:16 AM

Law enforcement officers on SWAT, or Special Weapons and Tactics teams, are specially trained to use submachine guns, sniper rifles, and assault weapons, and may also have access to concussion grenades and armored vehicles.

SWAT teams are often called if a gunman barricades himself in a building, and particularly if he takes hostages, Slate Magazine reported. It indicated SWAT teams may also help control large crowds, search for dangerous criminals, and carry out raids to execute search warrants.

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Here are 11 facts about the history of SWAT:

1. The nation’s first SWAT team was formed in 1964 in Philadelphia in response to a rash of bank robberies, according to tactical-life.com. The 100-man team was established to react quickly and decisively to bank robberies as they were in progress using specially trained officers who had superior firepower. The website said the squad proved successful, which prompted other cities to form their own teams.

2. Murders committed in 1966 by sniper Charles Whitman – who shot people randomly from the top of a tower at the University of Texas at Austin, while police who responded found themselves poorly equipped to deal with the situation – were a key catalyst that led to the proliferation of SWAT teams across the United States, according to Texas Monthly.

3. The prestigious SWAT team at the Los Angeles Police Department, was founded primarily by John Nelson, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran who was a patrol officer at the beginning of his law enforcement career, according to Police Magazine. The LAPD's poor responses to rioting in Watts in 1965 led to the feeling in the department that a special tactics team was needed.

4. Daryl Gates, who would later become Los Angeles police chief, supported and lobbied in favor of Nelson’s concept in the 1960s, according to the New York Times. It said Gates advocated giving the group the name “Special Weapons Attack Team” but the department instead went with the term “Special Weapons and Tactics.”

5. The LAPD SWAT Team was conceived as a crowd-control unit but its early deployments expanded its role to dignitary protection and situations involving barricaded suspects and hostages, Police Magazine said. The department’s first use of SWAT occurred with Operation Century '67, when tactical officers protected President Lyndon Johnson from protesters while he was at the Century Plaza Hotel.

6. The LAPD SWAT Team was tested in a 1969 gun battle with the Black Panthers and in 1974 during a firefight with the Symbionese Liberation Army, a "bizarre but dangerous band of radicals" known for kidnapping heiress Patricia Heart, the New York Times reported.

7. Colorado’s 1999 Columbine High School massacre prompted police departments to rethink what had been considered the conventional wisdom of asking officers who respond to incidents involving armed suspects to wait for the SWAT Team to arrive, said the Christian Science Monitor. Police training and policy underwent a "significant but controversial shift" in favor of a “rapid deployment” approach that involves officers taking quick action during incidents where suspects’ use deadly force, hoping to end the situation before and lessen the number of people killed.

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8. In the wake of two highly publicized wrongful deaths involving SWAT teams in California, that state in 2001 formed a broad-based commission to study SWAT operations, said Police Magazine. It made seven recommendations that were adopted by the state and could also be used nationwide as a model of how to operate and manage a tactical team. The commission noted a significant differences among agencies in terms of SWAT training and stressed the need for SWAT training standards.

9. Criminologist Peter Kraska estimated between 50,000 and 80,000 SWAT raids occur every year in the United States, the Washington Post reported in 2014.

10. A rise in the number and use of SWAT teams in the U.S. has contributed to an increased militarization of law enforcement agencies, a subject getting significant media attention. Kraska told The National Drug Strategy Network that SWAT teams attract a different kind of officer who is less of a “social worker” and more of a “special operations soldier.”

11. The American Civil Liberties Union in 2014 released results of a yearlong study it conducted about police militarization, examining 800 SWAT deployments in 20 agencies in 2011 and 2012. It found 62 percent of the raids were drug searches, the Washington Post reported. That newspaper added: “In other words, where violent, volatile SWAT tactics were once used only in limited situations where someone was in the process of or about to commit a violent crime — where the police were using violence only to defuse an already violent situation — SWAT teams today are overwhelmingly used to investigate people who are still only suspected of committing nonviolent consensual crimes. And because these raids often involve forced entry into homes, often at night, they’re actually creating violence and confrontation where there was none before.”

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Law enforcement officers on SWAT, or Special Weapons and Tactics teams, are specially trained to use submachine guns, sniper rifles, and assault weapons, and may also have access to concussion grenades and armored vehicles.
law enforcement, SWAT, history
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 09:16 AM
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