Tactical Police and SWAT Careers and Job Description

Tactical teams, including SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, are elite law enforcement units with advanced training in weapons, vehicles and tactics. These units are usually deployed by police organizations when they encounter a situation where the potential violence is high or the risk to public safety requires an extremely effective response.  Tactical teams utilize specially developed breaching strategies in conjunction with body armor and military-style firearms to neutralize criminal or terrorist elements.

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Among the many situations in which tactical teams are deployed are

  • Riot control
  • Hostage rescue
  • Counter-terrorist operations
  • WMD operations
  • Barricaded facilities
  • Perimeter security

In addition to the specialized equipment that tactical teams utilize, they also receive advanced training from instructors who have served in elite special operations units like Delta Force, FBI HRT or Navy Seals.  SWAT and other tactical training involves expert preparation in long-range marksmanship, hostage negotiations, helicopter deployment and other tactical skills.

SWAT and Tactical Police Training

Preparing to become a SWAT team member begins long before the police department application process.  Tactical teams are looking for individuals with exceptional physical and cognitive skills who can perform at the highest levels even in high risk situations.  Most of the top candidates possess at least a bachelor’s degree or some experience in the military.  Many elite forces soldiers transition to SWAT or special operations, so the competition for these jobs can be high.

Joining a local police department with a SWAT or other type of tactical team requires candidates to successfully complete a grueling training process.  There are physical and academic components, but applicants with college degrees and the physical conditioning to join these elite units should not be unduly challenged by these evaluations. After completing the police academy, officers must serve as uniformed officers during the probationary period, which may last several years.

Once the probationary period is completed, officers may request admittance to the tactical team and receive specialized training.  Unlike many other divisions within local police organizations, the SWAT team is not a full-time position.  Officers who serve in this unit perform the daily responsibilities of other police officers but are on call if a high-risk situation develops.

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The selection process may be quite demanding with a rigorous physical testing procedure that assesses candidates’ abilities under extreme conditions. Most of these units require optimal performance in highly stressful situations like a hostage rescue or a bomb threat, so the selection process may simulate similar scenarios and evaluate candidate responses.

SWAT and Tactical Team Training Objectives

Tactical team and SWAT officers are expected to master the following as part of their training:

  • Deploy quietly to positions around a high risk location
  • Maintain situational awareness throughout an operation
  • Effectively used firearms and other weapons to neutralize hostile individuals
  • Negotiate with kidnappers or hostage takers
  • Conduct breach operations quickly and effectively
  • Serve warrants or make arrests within a high risk environment


Tactical Team Salary

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t pinpoint what tactical team officers earn, it can be assumed that because of their advanced skillset and high level of training, they are among some of the highest paid police officers. As of May 2021, the BLS reported that the highest earning (75th-90th percentile) police officers reported salaries of between $81,430 and $98,250.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for police and sheriff’s patrol officers. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2022.

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