SWATTraining and Preparedness Guide
The desire to become a SWAT team mamber must be matched by persistence and
dedication to a team concept. The following information is presented as an
overview of some of the criteria and methods teams use to select new
operators. Criteria and selection methods differ from team to team, and
weather the agency has a full-time or part-time SWAT unit.
Tactical operations are specialized work and call for specialized individuals.
Tactical team members must exhibit many good qualities and be mentally and
physically competent. Only serious individuals need to be associated with
tactical operations. The purpose of being a team member is not to further a
political career or play dress-up and wear cool looking uniforms. In fact,
this is the last reason for you to want to be on a tactical team. If this
is what you want, there is no need for you to apply. While there are no
absolute guidelines for selecting personnel for tactical operations,
strength and fitness is only a part of what makes up a good SWAT operator.
- It doesnít take very much thought to give someone a weapon and send
them through a door. For tactical operators, intelligence is an
absolute must. Good skills in reasoning and being able to "think
on your feet" are highly sought after operator traits. Tactical
operations by their very nature are dynamic and on the spot planning
and adaptability are essential. Selection of individuals with above
average intelligence and from diverse educational backgrounds greatly
enhances the versatility of the team.
- Physical Fitness -
Operators should be in shape! This does not mean that everyone should
be able to press 500 pounds of iron and tear through a steel door
barehanded, but that they have good strength characteristics. While
upper body strength is part of this, stamina is an equally (if not
more important) part of physical fitness. Individuals should be in
good shape with as few joint problems as possible. Also, operators
should be non-smokers. The last thing a team needs is someone who
needs to take a smoke break or who smells like an ashtray. Physically,
an operator should be able to run, hike, climb, and swim as a normal
part of daily PT.
- Motivation -
Self-motivation is a key part of an operatorís success. Persons who
enjoy a challenge and thrive on success make good SWAT operators. This
may sound counterproductive by getting a bunch of egomaniacs on a
team, but motivation and competition are good team player qualities.
Motivated individuals are generally reliable individuals.
- Stability - An even
temperament is essential for an operator. Tactical teams do not need
someone who cannot keep their cool under stress.
- Team Spirit - This is
probably the most essential skill an operator can have. Remember,
there is no "I" in "team". Tactical units cannot
afford the luxury of someone who wants to pack it in for the day when
things start going badly. You can not say "I quit" in the
middle of any operation and expect to be successful.
SWAT teams are normally considered a specialized assignment, and for that reason
it is a tested position. Teams will test new candidates on their physical
fitness, mental stability, and suitability to the team structure and
function. Some teams may require a written commitment to this assignment
due to the ever changing work schedules, perpetual on-call work status, and
mandatory response time and attendance (not to mention the time and money
spent in the basic training of a new recruit).
The following is a basic guideline of soem of the testing procedures and
requirements considered by SWAT teams:
- Written Exam - may consist of tactical material, policies and procedures, and other skills
- Fitness Test - A variety of tests are used. Depending
on the physical location, possible operations an operamator may be required
to conduct, and any other physical fitness requirements which are normally
The following is just one example of a basic SWAT enterance PT
test. These tests are used as a guide to test a candidates fitness level
and to reveal determination and desire to make the team.
- Maximum Bench Press (one rep)
- Maximum Leg Press (one rep)
- Maximum Pushups (1 min time limit...all the way down using proper form)
- Maximum Situps (1 min time limit)
- 1.5 Mile Timed Run
- 300 Yard Sprint
- 150 lb. "Dummy Drag"
This is a very minimal physical test. Other departments may
require swimming, running, and more advanced PT testing. Each department
has it's own standards for team selection. SWAT operators are expected to
be able to regularly pass fitness tests to remain operational.
Additionally, more advanced SWAT schools often have stringent fitness
requirements (LE diving for example requires a swimming/water survival
For more information on preparation, get the SWAT Operator
Fitness Guide (available here soon).
- Firearms Test - SWAT teams require their members to
utilize firearms of various types with more proficiency and safety than
other officers. For this reason the firearms test given to candidates will
normally be more comprehensive than anything encountered in either the regular
police academy or in regular annual qualifications and training. The
average firearms test may consist of:
- Target Acquisition Drills
- Rapid Fire Sequences
- Shooting on the move
- Mechanical knowledge of weapon operation
- Review Board - Candidates may be required to pass an
interview board, wich is usually conducted to test and individuals ability
to think on their feet and gain insight into their suitability for
assignment. A great amount of information may be gained from a candidate
including personality type, the amount of preparation they put into
testing, their ability to work as part of a team, and their level of
commitment. Some interviews may also require the the candidate make a
presentation on a SWAT-related topic. This is just another tool used by
SWAT teams to test candidates and is not conclusive as a testing procedure,
but is used in conjunction with other methods (as those previously
- Psychological Evaluation - SWAT team candidates may be
required to undergo psychological testing as part of the selection criteria
or as a post-selection process. Some teams use this test as a post
selection limiting the evaluation to any candidates they are interested in.
A few of the things that may be relevent are the candidates ability to work
with a team, level of self confidence and ability to manage stress. Some
test procedures may be more strenuous and require higher scores to be
picked for team assignment.
- Other Selection Factors - Teams may have pre-testing
requirements or post-selection guidelines that a candidate may have to
agree to. Failure to comply may lead to reassignment. Some of these
guidelines may include but are not limited to no smoking or tobacco use of
any kind, no alcohol use, required response time to callout, and minimum