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+33

Selections vs. Qualifications Training

Selections vs. Qualifications Training

During a scouting mission, students get physical conditioning and some practical hands on training.

Michael E. Witzgall / SWAT Digest

The key word in the above paragraph is “train”. Replacing the current selections mentality with the needed training philosophies will be difficult at best. It might mean a complete revision of what some instructors (and teams) envision SWAT to be. For those that struggle with this idea, please keep these five points in mind:

1. “PT” should not be used as a baseline standard to wash students out of a SWAT school. The reason physical training is so often used in this manner is because it is easy to evaluate and requires little work on behalf of the instructors. Unfortunately, it tells almost nothing about the SWAT student’s potential. Many organizations that use the selections concept during SWAT training use physical fitness as the mainstay to their training philosophy (as opposed to, let’s say, concentrating on entry work). I agree that SWAT officers must be in good physical condition and that a Basic SWAT School should have physical training in its curriculum (especially an assessment test); however, I disagree with any concept that washes out an officer who is excellent SWAT material simply because he cannot run well. This makes very little sense and is often a waste of time and talent.

2. You cannot get a person in shape in a week. You can make them sore and miserable. You can pad your ego by running them into the dirt. You can make them hate life – but you cannot get them in shape. Those same hours spent running each day could be used to teach and perfect tactical skills. If you want to drive home the point that SWAT officers need to be in good physical condition, try having students do “button hooks” or “cross-overs” correctly through the door 50 times or more. Or have the students do high crawls, low crawls and 3 to 5 second rushes until they are exhausted. Those are life saving skills needed by all tactical officers while running several miles in tactical gear, though impressive, is not.

3. An intentionally high washout rate is nothing to be proud of. There are SWAT schools that, by design, strive to reach a high failure rate of 50% or more. Some courses are so difficult that it becomes survival of the luckiest, not the best. Students that do not get sick or injured and those that are willing to put up with the harassment generally graduate. The question is: are these graduates really the best trained? Or, were those students so beaten up, so sore and tired that they subconsciously switched to autopilot, learning little, but doing just enough to stay healthy (and out of trouble) to pass the course?

4. Just because an individual is on a tactical team in no way indicates that he or she should be allowed to teach at a SWAT school. In the last ten years I have fired three instructors for mistreatment of students. While doing this has caused me some backlash (angry people love to run their mouths seemingly forever), I will not allow instructors to abuse students. Instructors that are intentionally overly combative while role playing as bad guys or that constantly drop students for push-ups for real or perceived infractions either do not know how to teach or they enjoy causing others pain. One is bad. The other is borderline criminal. Unless those that are responsible for choosing the training cadre are very careful in whom they select to teach, abusive conduct by bad instructors will eventually occur. Regardless of your training philosophy, your instructors must be the very best that you can field. Unprofessional conduct displayed by instructors will destroy the validity of your school and our profession.

5. We only have the students for a week. Wasting time playing games (constantly dropping students for pushups or harassing them while running or during other activities) under the guise that it will instill self-discipline in the student is absurd. Military boot camp is generally three months long. In that time frame a recruit is stripped of his identity and then slowly, over the course of time, rebuilt into what the military wants him to be.

One of the most disturbing conversations I have had was with a much- respected tactical commander who had sent several of his officers to a Basic SWAT school in this region. Evidently, when one of his officers could not keep up on a run several of the instructors surrounded him, got in his face and began to severely demean him, his team and his department. I am sure the instructors that did this were trying to motivate the student into “digging deep” and trying harder, maybe thinking that it would instill some pride and discipline in the officer. This type of negative reinforcement rarely works for very long. The military stopped using it years ago. So should we.

I understand that there are tactical instructors that disagree and will continue to run SWAT schools in a selections manner. That is their prerogative. If that is the case, I recommend that the course title reflect that training viewpoint (i.e. Selections / Basic SWAT course), publish the course rationale and furnish the potential students with a reference list of former attendees that they can contact. If an officer has attended a SWAT school that, in his/her opinion, was unduly abusive or unprofessional, he/she should report it. Almost all states have tactical associations that, to some degree or another, review or sanction tactical training curriculum – they need to be involved. If they have sanctioned the curriculum then they have a right to know what is occurring under their stamp of approval. Contact them!

Lest you think that I am endorsing we train a kinder and gentler SWAT officer, I am not. SWAT, by its very nature, is a dangerous and demanding profession. Shifting from a selections course approach to a qualifications course will mean changing the focus of the course standards – not lowering them or dummying the standards down. The same level of intensity found in a selections course can be achieved in a qualifications course through repetition of techniques, professional instructors that teach – not harass – and demanding that students perform learned techniques under high standards of evaluation.

Over the last 15 years, I have come to believe that as a Tactical / SWAT instructor, I am given a special trust by the students that attend my courses. These students are relying on us (my cadre and I) to teach them the skills they need in order to stay alive in the near-combat environment that SWAT can become. To place importance on any training (or training philosophy) that diverts attention a way from this reality is to break that trust.

Originally published at SWAT Digest.

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+33
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    Recondo99

    over 3 years ago

    2590 Comments

    Excellant article. As an OSS field agent, my father trained members of the French Resistance in France during WW2. They didn't have time for childish, macho, "proving yourself" games. Except for marksmanship and demo, your "tactical training" was a real raid or ambush against the Nazis. If you had a trigger finger, a pulsebeat and the will to fight you were in. No elitist snobery, just guts and dedication. Author makes good sense about washing out people who are obviously motivated by merely volunteering to join SWAT and showing up for the training. Great article. Very thoughtful. LTC Thomas FX Nugent

  • 687-45b_5270

    JCastelot

    almost 4 years ago

    228 Comments

    Great article. I am very interested in SWAT and I am going to be working towards becoming a SWAT team member.

  • My_lapd_badge_max50

    LAPDLEO

    almost 4 years ago

    1776 Comments

    Schwarzenegger would have NEVER passed the LAPD SWAT school, or y worthy swat school for that matter! He didn't have the wind, and big muscles do not equate to being "combat fit". And no one is saying that your fitness is the barometer of a good tactician, but it's an obligatory fundamental, and the foundation of all good operational tacticians. Anyone who says otherwise, is completely void of even the most basic understanding of a true swat team, and the missions they are called to complete. Great fitness is the starting point for any good swat team member, period.

  • Swat_pics_028_max50

    Pliskin16

    almost 4 years ago

    32 Comments

    Being fit isn't the same thing as being Tactical. Arnold schwarzenegger in his prime would have been in perfect shape to be in SWAT but that doesn't mean he would have made a good SWAT operator.

  • Img_1155_max50

    Ashurbanipal

    almost 4 years ago

    74 Comments

    very good article, i hope people who run the schools will read this and take it to heart.

  • My_lapd_badge_max50

    LAPDLEO

    almost 4 years ago

    1776 Comments

    First off, even here with LAPD we now have have mediocrity in SWAT! LAPD eased their SWAT entry so a female could pass it easier. The same female probably would have passed it anyway, but hurt herself the last time she tried. So her second attempt theyeased the process. And what a slap in the face to this officer, that they had to ease the entry qual for her to get in. REDICULOUS & PATHETIC! However this same female, who's seriously a great cop, had a negligent discharge of her H&K MP-5 on the range during SWAT school. That same negligent discharge would have sent any and all male officers back to a line platoon. We had an Iraq and Apfg Veteran, who made the fatal error of pulling the pin on a flashbang, changing hands (due to the door position) then tossing it in. They booted him for that! The squint that made that call is WEAK SAUCE! This kid didn't complain, he pulled up his boot straps and marched on. Anyone who cannot pass the qual, should suck it up and try again later. Anyone who has a problem with the tough "special forces like training" should get fit and make it happen. If you want it bad enough, stop eating donuts and start working out.

  • Img_0048_max50

    sargeNcharge

    almost 4 years ago

    596 Comments

    pete...that is true, just remember that if every five minutes a instructor whats to tell you to drop down and give me 50 or wants to do a 10 mile march. that precious time could have been better spent teaching..instructing,guiding... as opposed to seeing who they think can't "hack it". when i went for my training we only had a week to have a lot more material covered than you could imagine of course. so save that type of stuff for the selection process done back at each guys home unit. wei did get up early every morning and start the day off with some good ole' PT. but when it was done, it was all about getting down to business. then you DO have time to listen and learn from the guys coming back from deployments rather than seeing who can do the most push-ups like we are back at the academy or bootcamp again. those guys can feed their egos somewhere else(and i know you know the types i'm talking about)Lol.

  • Jpd_new_max50

    PETE114

    almost 4 years ago

    1396 Comments

    Hey PSD....Some of those military concepts come in handy in the LE world. Some military training can be used in civilian SWAT work (and are). It nice to have the blend of a military mindset and the knowledge of LE work. We always take a little from each great instructor (Paul Howe, Mike Albanese, Steve Clagett, Jeff Chudwin, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, and so on) and mold it into our own team's style. Plus the current military people deployed overseas are a wealth of knowledge on what equipment worked and what didn't.

  • American_first_responder2_max50

    trooperman911

    almost 4 years ago

    2564 Comments

    @PSD_TEAM_LEADER...BUMP on both of your last two post on this issue; Definitely!

  • Sfa_iv_max50

    revCCBeasley

    almost 4 years ago

    2944 Comments

    I agree fully with this training mode...TRAIN.

  • Img_0164small_max50

    TopRad

    almost 4 years ago

    68 Comments

    Its the agency's job to select the right candidate for the position based on their selection criteria. It's the school's responsibility to teach the candidate the skills they will need to fulfill the requirements of the position. This is the same for any school or specialty that an officer applies for. We did all that paramilitary drill instructor stuff in the academy, and if you graduated and received a badge, you made the cut. There's no reason at this level (LE) to do the same sort of stuff the military does at their courses. Been there, done that too. Two different worlds.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 4 years ago

    Exactly...there is this tactical LE precocupation and fascination with Special Forces, Rangers, Delta, SEALs, Recon Marines....a strange sort of hero worship and often by guys who never served in the military. All those military SOF units I just named.....SWAT, SRT, ESU, SORT, Narcotics, Warrants, Street Crimes units are not military SOF units...dont have the missions that military SOF units have....are not tasked with direct action, long range recon, unconventional warfare...and in turn..when was the last time an ODA team was tasked with executing a narcotics warrant? A felony arrest? A barricaded suspect? A high risk mental or felony warrant?

  • Swat_logo_max50

    kbabcock

    almost 4 years ago

    258 Comments

    RIGHT ON!!!
    I have seen instances where good officers were selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process at their agencies. Then equipped and sent out for Basic, only to flunk out Monday morning at 0800hrs for failing to complete a 5 mile run wearing gear they just got issued prior to showing up for the class. A criminal waste of time and resources. It is not that agencies job to decide whether or not this guy "is cut out for SWAT" or not. He's not on their team!! His/Her agency has decided they want this person on their team, your being paid to provide them training, provide it. If they are unable to learn the material, document and report back to their agency and let it be handled there, jointly. That said, I do think the agency needs to know what they are getting before sending people outside for training. If for some stupid reason you believe sanctioned hazing is the way to go, at least make your candiates aware during the application process that it's coming and that they must pass to make the team. This will give them a chance to PT up and get where they need to be before they even apply (hopefully) if not, at least you had full disclosure and failure to prepare rests with the individual. In the instance above, it was a surprise "welcome to Basic SWAT, fall in and off we go. BTW, if anyone falls out, you just flunked the course, good luck." SWAT missions in policing are not SEAL missions in war. Different ideas, goals and acceptable methods of getting it done. So, if SWAT operators are not working like commandos, why are they training that way??

  • Swat_logo_max50

    kbabcock

    almost 4 years ago

    258 Comments

    RIGHT ON!!!
    I have seen instances where good officers were selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process at their agencies. Then equipped and sent out for Basic, only to flunk out Monday morning at 0800hrs for failing to complete a 5 mile run wearing gear they just got issued prior to showing up for the class. A criminal waste of time and resources. It is not that agencies job to decide whether or not this guy "is cut out for SWAT" or not. He's not on their team!! His/Her agency has decided they want this person on their team, your being paid to provide them training, provide it. If they are unable to learn the material, document and report back to their agency and let it be handled there, jointly. That said, I do think the agency needs to know what they are getting before sending people outside for training. If for some stupid reason you believe sanctioned hazing is the way to go, at least make your candiates aware during the application process that it's coming and that they must pass to make the team. This will give them a chance to PT up and get where they need to be before they even apply (hopefully) if not, at least you had full disclosure and failure to prepare rests with the individual. In the instance above, it was a surprise "welcome to Basic SWAT, fall in and off we go. BTW, if anyone falls out, you just flunked the course, good luck." SWAT missions in policing are not SEAL missions in war. Different ideas, goals and acceptable methods of getting it done. So, if SWAT operators are not working like commandos, why are they training that way??

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 4 years ago

    Right on about the Type A personality...that is why I dont hang out with alot of cops in my personal life...there seems to be two types of Type As...the types that have to have it always about them, they have to be the best even if it takes creating a "persona" and not actual facts.....that is the type with severe self esteem issues...that stereotypical "I was bullied and now I have power" cops. And then there are the guys who simply WANT to be the best but realize that its a road, not a destination...and strive to move up and up and also understand that they like being around others of the same ilk.
    SWAT, and law enforcement in general, needs more of the 2nd type...not the 1st.

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