The US police incorporates many different tactical units, but SWAT is still the most famous and popular. What is it, what technical tools and techniques allow it to successfully fight crime over a period of almost half a century of history, and also why the separate structural unit of the Los Angeles police has become so famous?
SWAT is the abbreviation of a special unit of the American police. Its name used to mean in deciphering Special Weapons Assault Team, which in Russian means “assault group with special weapons”, and now - Special Weapons and Tactics - “special weapons and tactics”. SWAT performs a wide range of tasks - for example, as the Russian riot police (mobile special purpose unit), provides for the release of hostages, conducts counter-terrorist operations, saves people from the shelling, arranges raids against the mafia, fights rioters on the streets.
SWAT Special Forces History
The unit was created in 1967 to support the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) during the riots in the United States, when not only civilians but also policemen were threatened in the streets. At the same time, John Nelson, a LAPD sergeant, proposed the concept of a specially armed tactical group to Inspector Derrell Gates. He endorsed the idea and personally led the SWAT.
The first unit consisted of fifteen groups of four people, in which LAPD patrol officers who had undergone special training served. Groups were formed on a voluntary basis, the only condition was initial military training and service in the police. SWAT Special Forces officers are still recruited on a voluntary basis - but in order to be recognized as fit for service in SWAT, they need to serve in the police for some time. This is done so that the candidates fully know the policies of the LAPD and the various police procedures.
How to prepare a SWAT team?
Candidates for SWAT operatives undergo rigorous selection and rigorous training, including not only testing their physical abilities, but also testing for psychological fitness for operations. First of all, attention is paid to physical training. After a thorough check, the newly-made operative participates in various events and takes courses, after which he becomes a qualified commando. SWAT operatives work with explosives, learn sniper shooting and rock climbing, learn the basics of first aid and negotiation skills.
Special training includes the handling of tactical ammunition - weapons with special non-lethal ammunition, stun grenades. But the primary task of a SWAT operative is the ability to conduct close combat. This is the most preferred during training. SWAT headquarters is located in the same place as LAPD headquarters - Los Angeles, 1st West Street.
SWAT operative weapons
When choosing weapons for SWAT, preference was given to such weapons, with which it is more convenient to conduct close combat in the city and confined spaces:
- Cobble weapons - Colt M1911, Beretta 92, Five-Seven, Sig Sauer P226 and P229, Glock, HK USP;
- Pistols machine guns - HK MP5, HK UMP, FN P90;
- Carbines - M4, HK G36, HK416, CAR-15;
- Shotguns - R870, Benelli M1;
- As sniper rifles, operatives prefer rifles with a longitudinally-sliding type shutter - for example, M4.
In order to quickly knock out or break open doors, SWAT operatives use rams, special cartridges for shotguns, and attacking firearms. More on the weapons of SWAT are pepper sprays, stun grenades and tear gas. To hide from enemy fire, operatives use special shields.
Body armor used by SWAT belongs to protection class III-A and can provide protection against small-caliber bullets and shotguns (but they are not as heavy as standard army body armor), as well as the PASGT kevlar helmet. Mobility and speed in urban fighting conditions are not a whim, but a harsh necessity. The form of operatives has a different color depending on the tasks and is sewn from refractory material. From the special equipment in service with the SWAT are the so-called ARV (rescue vehicles with armor protection), helicopters, heavy protected trucks such as Pierce Arrow XT, and in some cases - armored personnel carriers.
The main SWAT method is neutralization of criminals or, in extreme cases, their elimination. For deactivation operatives use various methods of hand-to-hand combat (captures of the enemy and his weapons, stunning using light-noise grenades and without them). The assault is carried out extremely quickly, to prevent the enemy from coming to his senses and to resist.
The structure of modern SWAT.
SWAT is divided into six offices of 11 people each, led by a sergeant. The platoon is commanded by a lieutenant, and the detachments are divided into two groups of five people. 16 people in the SWAT are platoon snipers who have undergone special training, their task is to observe and fire support in conducting special operations.
Operations with the participation of special forces
SWAT has hundreds of different missions each year. There are several of the most famous:
- Raid against the Black Panther criminal group on December 9, 1969. The first serious operation of SWAT, during which the headquarters of the criminals was disarmed, and the special forces lost three officers;
- Securing the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. Every minute SWAT operatives were on full alert and did not lose their vigilance, as a result of which the games went off without a single incident.
In addition, SWAT was involved in several major incidents:
- An operation against terrorists from the Symbionist Liberation Army. It happened on May 17, 1974, when a group of terrorists from the CAO barricaded themselves in a suburban house and began shooting at the police officers who surrounded the building. During the operation, a fire broke out, the house caught fire, and all six criminals died in the fire;
- In 1992, several SWAT operatives were charged with abusing their authority after the arrest of a drunk driver. They were quickly acquitted, but after a loud trial in the city anarchy prevailed, during which SWAT did not fight with organized groups of criminals or terrorists, but with rioters and students;
- February 28, 1997 SWAT captured bank robbers in Hollywood. 350 police officers were involved in the operation, many of whom were injured in the fight. Two criminals who opened fire could not be captured alive — one shot himself and the other died from blood loss.
These operations are considered a failure among the leadership of SWAT, and after each of them a detailed “debriefing” was carried out, as a result of which the unit structure was repeatedly reorganized. Such events caused a wide public response and exerted psychological pressure on the operatives themselves, who with honor overcame such trials and are successfully fighting crime to this day.
SWAT is perhaps the most effective counter-terrorism unit, deservedly occupying a high place in the ranking of world special-purpose units on a par with the French GIGN, the German GSG-9, or the Russian riot police. It is a high level of combat training and excellent weapons that allow SWAT to conduct complex and dangerous operations. For nearly half a century since the founding of SWAT, only one operative of this structure died during the operation - this says a lot.