We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a SWAT Team?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is a specially trained law enforcement team which responds to potentially dangerous events, such as a situation which may involve hostages. These special response teams go by a number of alternate names, but most civilians refer colloquially to any sort of special response team as a SWAT team, regardless as to its official name. Generally, this term is used only within the United States, with international special response teams having their own colorful acronyms.

The origins of the SWAT team can be found in 1960s Los Angeles, when the police department recognized a growing need for an elite, highly-trained response team which could handle emerging situations. The first SWAT team was established there in 1967, and the concept quickly spread across the nation to other police departments. Today, most major American police departments have a SWAT team, as do other law enforcement agencies, and forces which do not have one typically have a cooperative agreement with a law enforcement agency that does.

In order to qualify to be SWAT personnel, a police officer must generally have several years of experience on active duty, and as a general rule he or she should have been recognized for especially excellent service. When an officer is accepted to the SWAT team, he or she receives specialized SWAT training, along with an assortment of tools which are available only to SWAT police, including specialized body armor, distinctive weapons, and access to riot gear and specially outfitted vehicles.

Because a SWAT team is not constantly in action, most people on these teams work as regular police officers most of the time, but make themselves available on an on-call basis for SWAT calls. When a SWAT team is activated, whichever SWAT officers are on call will be sent out, and some may be kept on standby in case the situation escalates and requires additional officers.

Whenever a suspect is believed to be heavily armed or suicidal, a SWAT team is sent out. These teams also serve arrest warrants to dangerous subjects, intervene in hostage situations, help to break down barricades, work on counter-terrorism missions, provide perimeter security for high-profile events, and provide assistance in other high-risk situations. Thanks to the involvement of SWAT officers in dangerous situations, these teams also plays a role in popular culture.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By behaviourism — On Jan 28, 2011

@aaaCookie,you sound a little skeptical of SWAT and other games like it, and I do not blame you. I feel like video games in general have become more about shooting "the enemy" and asserting power than just about being on the good side and preventing the spread of evil. I also think that they give people sort of unrealistic ideas about SWAT team requirements and tactics.

By aaaCookie — On Jan 26, 2011

There is also a video game series called SWAT that now has nine different titles, beginning with an original in which you played a regular police officer. While I have never played them, I think they are similar to many other first-person shooter and strategy games that are popular today, in which the player is some sort of important authority figure, and the enemies are all criminals or other seeming undesirables.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.