Many aspiring law enforcement officers have their hearts set on becoming a member of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. Hollywood has done much to fuel the public’s fascination with this small but important element of police service. Recognize a few key points about SWAT teams:
- Not every department has one. Most larger departments do, but many smaller departments rely on or combine forces with other neighboring agencies.
- Be prepared to train, train, train.
- Women are definitely in the minority among SWAT team members (just as they are in the larger profession of policing), but if you meet the requirements, gender should not preclude your chances of success.
- You do not “join” the SWAT team. You must first be a patrol officer with a given amount of experience. Then, you apply and compete for a spot.
Criminal Justice instructor and former SWAT team member with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, Horace Sprately offers the following tips to help would-be SWAT team members stand out from the competition:
Work Hard: Your physical strengths and abilities, and your mental fortitude, will play a big role in your success as part of a SWAT team, so your conditioning and preparation for the job are vital.
Be Dedicated: As a SWAT team member, you will have to dedicate yourself 100%. Your dedication will pay off when the Chief or Sheriff calls to thank you for your service. The job will demand an enormous amount of your time, so your degree of respect and caring for your fellow man – and your desire to make your community a better place to live – must be at their peak.
Train Often: Training may vary depending on the department and its resources, but excellent marksmanship is a must, so it is imperative that you set aside as much time as you can, as often as you can, for target practice at the range.
Don’t Quit: Every SWAT team conducts tryouts, and members are carefully chosen by the team. If you want to be a part of a SWAT team, don’t give up.
To be a part of this type of elite team is a significant accomplishment. It shows that your hard work has paid off and that you are one of the best, and it will carry with it a bond of unity with your team members that will last forever.
About Horace Spratley: Mr. Spratley is an instructor in the Criminal Justice associate’s degree program at Remington College in Shreveport. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Leo University and began his career in law enforcement in 1989. His experience in criminal justice includes appointment as a Narcotics Investigator, membership in an elite SWAT Team Unit with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, and recipient of the “Officer of the Year” award from the Augusta police force.