The rules and regulations for SWAT team training and certification vary from state to state, based on individual states' Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) guidelines. For admission to such a program, an applicant must first be a certified police officer and must typically hold a minimum amount of law enforcement experience, such as a year in the field. These programs are commonly offered through police academies, as well as community colleges and universities. It should be noted that aspiring SWAT officers hoping to reach higher positions, such as commander or team leader, may be required to complete more advanced coursework.
Before individuals become SWAT team members, physical fitness requirements must be met, and field practice tests must be completed.
SWAT Training Programs
SWAT teams are tasked with responding to high-risk situations, such as hostage standoffs, civil unrest and riots, suicide interventions and terrorism threats. Accordingly, SWAT officers must be physically fit and trained in tactics such as perimeter creation, use of chemical agents and heavy firearms, building entry, crisis negotiation and team communication. Police departments usually assign high-performing officers to their SWAT teams, or these officers may volunteer to join.
Training programs for SWAT officers are designed in accordance with the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) guidelines of their respective U.S. states, which govern the training and certification of all state law enforcement personnel. In most states, officers must pass a basic SWAT course, which may range from a week to several months in duration, before entering field operations. Advanced coursework is available, and it is typically required in the cases of incident commanders and other SWAT team leaders. Recurrent monthly training for all SWAT officers is required by many departments.
SWAT officers are expected to be proficient in a wide range of core competencies related to high-risk incidents, such as negotiation tactics, stress management, and entering and searching buildings, and to demonstrate their abilities in practice scenarios. Topics for a basic SWAT training course include:
- Chemical agents
- Civil liability
- Criteria for SWAT deployment
- Distraction and diversionary devices
- Operations planning and movement in SWAT teams
- History of SWAT
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that police officers and detectives will see a four percent growth in employment from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In May 2015, the BLS stated that the mean annual wage for all police and sheriff's patrol officers was $61,270.
Continuing Education and Advancement Info
All police officers are eligible for promotion in rank based on job performance and written exam scores. Within SWAT teams specifically, members may be promoted to incident commander positions based on similar criteria.
Experienced police officers who want to become SWAT team members must complete physically and mentally demanding training courses that prepare them for high-pressure law enforcement scenarios. Individuals who complete these programs can move into SWAT leadership roles with additional training.