A special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team member performs the regular duties of any other police officer, while also performing special tasks required as a SWAT team member. Most members of a SWAT team are on SWAT as a secondary position, and spend most of their time as a regular officer or detective. As the name may imply, a SWAT team member is expected to be able to deal with situations outside the ordinary, and handle heavy firearms and intense situations where riot tactics or antiterrorism methods are necessary. Though not as glamorous as film and television representations of SWAT teams may be, being a SWAT officer is typically a sign of intense personal training.
Started in Los Angeles, California, in 1968 after noted increases in extreme events such as riots and the potential for snipers and guerrilla style combat erupting in the city, the first SWAT team was assembled as an answer to more extreme threats to civilians. The idea behind SWAT was to have a group of police officers who were trained, armed, and equipped with the abilities to deal with events beyond the daily routine of crime in a city. A SWAT team member is trained to perform tasks such as hostage rescue, riot control, assisting other officers on special tasks like drug raids, and executing antiterrorism operations.
While some major cities, such as Los Angeles, can maintain a SWAT team with officers who are primarily members of the team, most cities have officers on the SWAT team as secondary positions. This means that most SWAT team members are typically part of the general police force on most days. They will investigate crimes, patrol neighborhoods, and generally attempt to maintain civility and legal behavior. These officers will equip themselves and join the other members of the SWAT team in special situations when they are called upon to perform the duties they have learned in their secondary training.
Most SWAT team members have a college degree, most often in criminal justice or police science, and will usually have to be on the police force for a specified time period before applying to join the SWAT team. The positions on a SWAT team are often highly coveted and becoming a member of a SWAT team will usually require competition against other highly skilled and qualified applicants. Once accepted, a new team member will undergo extensive training in weapon use, wearing body armor, and employing special tactics to perform the necessary tasks of a SWAT team member.