The Tucson Police Department formed the Special Weapons and Tactics Team in 1974 to try and counter an ever-increasing propensity for violence in our community, as in other communities throughout the country. The team in those days was comprised of a few volunteers with no budget and little in the way of special weapons and training by today's standards.
The mission of the S.W.A.T. Team is to provide the department with the capability to safely resolve high-risk situations. Some examples of these types of situations are:
- Hostage situations
- Barricaded suspects
- Suicidal subjects
- High risk search warrants/raids
- High risk arrests
- VIP protection details
- Counter sniper
- Other situations where the likelihood of armed resistance appears great
The S.W.A.T. Team is operationally deployed on average 200 times every year; and those calls for assistance include other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The team consists of one lieutenant, four sergeants, and 40 officers. Three of the officers and one sergeant are full time and they make up the S.W.A.T. Squad. This squad is responsible for vehicles, equipment, weapons maintenance, setting up training, and various other assignments. The rest of the team members all have other full time jobs within the police department.
The S.W.A.T. Team trains twice monthly with additional training available as needed. Every officer has a specialty assignment on the team that they specifically train for; however, everyone also receives cross training in the other specialties. Some of the specialties include:
- Explosive Breaching
- Chemical and Less-lethal Munitions
- Armored Personnel Carrier Operators
- Tactical Medics
- Tactical Robot Operators
- Entry Specialists
If you find yourself in an area where a S.W.A.T. Team is deployed it is very important that you follow some simple rules.
- Do not try to drive or walk into the area
- Stay indoors, stay away from the windows, and lock your doors
- If you are told to evacuate, follow instructions and comply with the evacuation (Remember: If you are told to evacuate, it is for your safety)
It is a natural curiosity to try to watch what is going on, but if you can see the action, you are too close and you are in danger.
The Tucson Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics Team is committed to serving our community and carrying out our mission with dedication and professionalism to achieve our goal of saving lives.
The Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team has a select group of highly trained officers who are called Snipers. A deployed Sniper Team is the eyes of the S.W.A.T. Team.
The primary responsibilities of a Sniper Team are to protect the public and other S.W.A.T. Team members, and to gather details and information from its vantage point.
The S.W.A.T. Snipers train regularly in distances ranging from 0 to 1,000 yards. In order to become a Sniper, an officer must first be an experienced S.W.A.T. Team member, then go through a grueling testing process that evaluates the officer's abilities, mindset, and overall mental and physical capabilities to perform this demanding job.
The Tucson Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics Team has a very active and progressive Explosive Breaching Program. Explosive Breaching has really evolved over the years into a science. Dependent on the target to be breached, a small amount of explosives will be used in a very concise and precise manner to achieve our objective. The manner in which we use this tool is very safe, not only for the S.W.A.T. officers, but also for the occupants. Speed, surprise, and disorientation of the occupants is greatly increased if we utilize an explosive breaching option, and that makes for a safer operation for all.
The S.W.A.T. Team's Explosive Breachers are made up of highly trained Bomb Technicians and veteran S.W.A.T. officers who have attended specialized schools and training to be certified as Breachers. Extensive training, and research and development are continuous with our program, and members have done hundreds of training and operational explosive breaches.
Our goal is to provide our team with a safe, high-speed, and dynamic form of breaching that will help to ensure a safe ending of a hostile situation.
Chemical and Less-lethal Munitions
The Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team has a wide variety of chemical munitions (tear gas) and less-lethal capabilities. A select group of S.W.A.T. officers are specifically trained for deploying these tools; they train and are certified on a regular basis.
S.W.A.T. Team members deploy chemical munitions numerous times every year to assist in safely ending standoff type situations. Various types of chemical munitions can be used, depending upon the circumstances. Deployment options range from hand deployment to various long-distance, remote deployment techniques.
Less-lethal deployment is using projectiles (beanbags, foam, rubber, etc.) that are designed to incapacitate a suspect, but not to kill the individual. Our S.W.A.T. Team has some success stories where less-lethal deployment has saved individuals’ lives, where only a few years ago our only option would have been deadly force. Less-lethal deployment has proven itself as a valuable tool. However, we cannot use this tool in all situations and sometimes when used we do not achieve the desired result.
In 1997, the Tucson Police Department took possession of a Remotec, Andros 6A robot. Bomb Squad officers, who are also veteran S.W.A.T. Team members, set out to develop a tactical robot deployment plan. Extensive training, and research and development were undertaken to come up with techniques, attachments, and tools to assist in S.W.A.T. operations. We worked closely with the company engineers in developing some of these tools. It quickly became apparent how versatile and beneficial the robot deployment program was going to be for the S.W.A.T. Team:
- Less-lethal deployment (12 gauge beanbag, Sage, and Grab Net)
- Chemical munitions deployment
- Vehicle disablement
- Door and window breaching
- Deployment of hostage negotiator phone
- Building search
- Surveillance platform
- Face-to-face (robot) negotiations
The Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team has utilized the robot on numerous operations with great success; and the team is committed to enhancing and improving the robot deployment program.
Other specialist categories for the Tucson Police Department's S.W.A.T. Team include Entry Specialists. These officers train for the very demanding function of entering a location, rescuing victims, and securing suspects. Many times this has to be done under very adverse and dangerous conditions.
S.W.A.T. situations that may require an entry:
- Hostage rescue
- High-risk arrest
- Barricaded suspect
- Suicidal subject rescue
- High-risk warrant service
The S.W.A.T. Team Medics provide first-line medical care for any injuries during S.W.A.T. operations. They protect the lives of fellow team members, civilians, and suspects.
The Tactical Medics can and will provide the following services to the Team and citizens when needed:
- Tactical medical plan to incident command
- Lead medic at the command post to help with safety issues
- First line medical treatment to team members in the hot zone
- Team member medical evaluation at the command post
- Available to accompany any injured team member, civilian or suspect to the hospital
- A medical evaluation resource to incident command
- Keeping and maintaining medical supplies
- Training fellow team members on emergency first aid
- Assisting the team and the negotiators with the delivery of medicine to suspects and victims in a hot zone
- Assist the team in any other way needed
It has been proven that injured parties stand a much greater chance of survival if they are given immediate medical care. Our Tactical Medics can provide this immediate care, even in a hot zone.
Our Tactical Medics have gone through extensive training and schools to reach their high level of proficiency. The Tactical Medics have a close working relationship with the Tucson Fire Department Paramedics and regularly train and ride with them to help enhance their life saving skills.
Our S.W.A.T. Team Tactical Medics are dedicated and committed to rendering aid and saving lives even under the most adverse and dangerous conditions.