Special weapons and tactics units, or SWAT teams, are specially-trained law enforcement officers dispatched to situations that exceed that capabilities of traditional police officers. Dealing with hostage situations and violent armed criminals, SWAT team officers are typically experienced police or military officers who engage in specialized training to enhance their skills in negotiations, marksmanship, K-9 handling and command. Better position yourself for the training and coursework needed to become a member of a SWAT team by seeking out classes and training while still in high school.
Understanding the elements of criminal justice is essential when pursuing a position in a SWAT team. Because SWAT team members typically hold positions as police officers and detectives in addition to being members of the SWAT team, courses in criminal justice will help provide you with a base for the initial law enforcement training needed. Meet with your guidance counselor to determine if a specialized vocational or technical high school program providing criminal justice courses is available in your area. In addition, many law enforcement agencies and colleges offer camps or explorer programs specializing in criminal justice training for high school students.
Being a member of a SWAT team is physically demanding. Law enforcement positions, such as police officers and SWAT team members require applicants to pass a physical fitness test of strength and agility. Actively participating in sports and learning how to use weight and circuit training equipment will allow you to properly train and develop physical strength and agility. Courses in physical education, nutrition and wellness will help you develop the healthy lifestyle needed to stay fit as a law enforcement officer. Staying in your best physical shape requires continuous training and determination.
SWAT team members typically specialize in a particular position such as sniper, negotiator, K-9 handling, water or airborne operations. Pursue instruction and experience in the area of SWAT team specialization that most interests you. For example, develop the skills needed to become a sniper by becoming a member of your local gun club or high school shooting team. If you are interested in working in the K-9 unit, gain experience working with dogs by shadowing a dog trainer.
Whether you pursue a position within SWAT as a negotiator or simply work on the team, understanding why people behave inappropriately and make poor choices is essential to being an officer of the law. Courses in sociology will allow you to understand society’s social pressures, cultural differences and the causes of aberrant behavior. Psychology coursework will help you delve deeper into why people behave the way they do. Understanding your own emotions and behaviors will help you better deal with the stressful nature of being a SWAT team officer.
Most law enforcement agencies require SWAT team members to have at least one year of law enforcement or military experience before entering SWAT team training. In addition, most law enforcement agencies have a minimum age requirement of twenty-one. Pursuing a college degree in criminal justice, joining the military, or seeking enrollment in a police academy will provide valuable training while you wait to become the proper age.
- California Commission Peace Officer Standards and Training: SWAT Operational Guidelines and Standardized Training Recommendations
- Tarpon Springs Police Department: SWAT Team
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice: Overview
- Ulster Board of Cooperative Educational Services: Criminal Justice
- Sam Houston State University: Camps & Conferences
- Police The Law Enforcement Magazine: How to Get into SWAT Shape
- Police One: So You Want to Be a K9 Handler?
- Tucsan Police: Special Weapons and Tactics
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