SWAT paramilitary style
The Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) are a component of law and justice enforcement agencies in the United States of America. The units are composed of specifically chosen, highly trained individuals mostly using paramilitary based tactics and operations. The units are usually assigned to perform high risk law engagements that fall outside the capability of normal operations police officers. The paramilitary based law enforcement systems ensure that SWAT teams remain highly disciplined in their training and execution of duties. SWAT teams are usually armed with heavy gunfire attack and defense equipment, and can handle diverse hostile operations such as hostage negotiations, breaking and entering into strongly armored buildings and vehicles, terror based attacks and other law enforcement related situations that involve high risk. Due to the high risk of their work, SWAT teams are provided with high tech equipment such as night vision equipment, shields and armors, and devices to detect motion (Kolman, 2004).
Different agencies have different names for their special teams that are called in to contain high risk operations in different jurisdictions such as Special Operations and Reaction Team (SORT) and Law Enforcement Responder. Even though these tactical operations teams are also well trained, in most cases SWAT teams still have to be called in when there is a law enforcement situation that has a high risk to the safety of the members of the public. Due to the high risk nature and careful execution of duties required of SWAT teams, it is crucial to have highly effective leadership (Gorason, 2003).
Just like any other organization, SWAT teams require an effective leadership so that they can succeed in the short term missions that they carry out and in the long term; on how they develop and implement skills that they are required to use in the field. The effectiveness of leadership in SWAT paramilitary efficiency is tested in the field during the execution of missions. An effective SWAT team leader ensures that there is cohesiveness and team spirit among the members so that they can communicate as often as they should, and with the well being of not just the members of the public, but each other (Bartam & Casimir, 2007). As much as leadership is important in the execution of missions, communication is also paramount in contributing to following of the necessary protocol; and to ensure promotion of responsibility and accountability among SWAT team members.
History of SWAT paramilitary style
The SWAT division which forms part of major law enforcement agencies in the United States and other countries in the world was established in the year 1964. The initial team was formed through the efforts of the Philadelphia police department. Other police departments around the country followed suit and formed special tactical units; some under different names. After seeing how effective they were, state and federal law enforcement agencies also came up with their own SWAT units. In Los Angeles where the SWAT team gained high popularity, the police boss came up with the idea with the intention to reduce the number of casualties that were rampant when gangs would hit certain areas and the police that would go to take over the situation would have insufficient attack and defense tools (Randy, Polk & Shapiro, 2012).
Currently, all law enforcement agencies in the United States have SWAT teams that are called in to deal with high risk security related especially in this day and age when terrorism is rampant. SWAT team members start out as regular policemen and have to serve a minimum of a certain number of years (depending on the department and county) before they can be accepted and trained into a unit. Applicants into SWAT units must be psychologically stable and highly intelligent in both IQ and EQ. These parameters are important in making fast decisions on whose other team members and those of some members of the public depend on. SWAT units also place a lot of emphasis on physical fitness because of the rigorous physical training that members have to undergo, and strenuous physical activity required of them in the field.
Throughout history, SWAT paramilitary leaders have used a direct and dictatorial style to ensure that members comply to set guidelines. The members of a SWAT team are supposed to be highly fit in terms of physical nature so that they can run fast, lift heavy ammunition related equipment, and even engage dangerous assailants. Failure to show up on time or show up at all without an explanation or with flimsy excuses, is bound to earn an individual or his team members a military based type of punishment such as extra hours of physical fitness activity, or being asked to report for a physical fitness activity randomly at a time when an individual or all the team members were supposed to be free (Blair & Martaindale, 2014).
Due to the nature of the work of SWAT teams, autocratic type of leadership seems to work best. In this type of leadership, the team members have minimal input on how their duties are executed. The leaders has years of tactical experience, skill and is able to command respect through his actions and deeds. Most SWAT leaders have been able to gain their positions through the skillful initiative that they have shown in the field which has resulted in successful missions (Rosen, 2003). Therefore, they are able to command the respect of their team members because they can be able to execute the missions that they are sending their teams to accomplish. Autocratic leadership is efficient in use with SWAT teams because the missions are usually of an emergency nature and there is no time to call lengthy meetings so that deliberations can be made. The autocratic leader assigns different duties to the different members since he knows their strengths and weaknesses, and depending on their character, how long they have been with the team and their capability.
One of the disadvantages of this type of leadership that has been identified is the lack of input from the team members, yet they might have better solutions on how they can achieve particular missions.
- Problem Identification
There have been reported incidences where SWAT teams used too much force or shot an innocent unarmed individual. Such incidences have contributed to a loss in faith in SWAT teams by some members of the community. The SWAT professional team is meant to promote to a sense of security, and not threaten it.
Failure to properly train the SWAT team members might result in the death of a higher number of innocent individuals. It is crucial to ensure that SWAT team members that are sent to the field have the necessary skills to put the members of the public safety first, while being fast in their reaction towards impending dangers and risks.
If there are too many complaints about the responses by SWAT team members, then the government might decide to do away with them.
- Literature Review
SWAT teams were initially introduced so as to reduce the number of police officers that died from serious operations. Most of the police officers that were the first respondents to serious crime scenes would get caught up in the crossfire and die as a result of insufficient preparedness, or poor coordination among the police officers that responded to the crime alerts. Most SWAT leaders ensure that their groups have maximum cohesiveness. Police forces and their different units such SWAT teams are no exceptions to organizations that experience dynamics in their different avenues such as political, technology and economic spheres. The importance of a highly qualified and competent leader in a SWAT team cannot be over emphasized. According to the study, one of the factors that contribute to good leadership in SWAT teams is that most leaders at the top have passed through the ranks and so they have an understanding of the experiences that their juniors go through. The leaders are able to make decisions fast because they have experienced most of the events that the juniors are experiencing for the first time in terms of solving crimes, being in groups and teams, and negotiating for better terms at the workplace.
According to Batts, Smoot and Scrinver (2012), most police force leaders are faced with the challenge of having to make decisions that are within strict national policies and guidelines which must be adhered to. The changes that can be made are minimal, because an overhaul would have to be made so as to change decisions systems nationally. However, there are certain platforms within which police force leaders such as SWAT team leaders can make to cope with the changes around the tactical team. With increase in cases of terrorism, SWAT teams are expected to “step up” and bring justice to the terrorists that have abused the country’s hospitality and brought discomfort in the lives of many citizens in terms of security. Since the police force and their respective SWAT teams are held more accountable, they have to make changes in the manner in which they perform their tasks so as to show results. Terrorists and other forms of criminals have made changes in the manner in which they carry out their illegal activities. Therefore it is important for law enforcement agencies to do the same if they can do their work effectively (Batts, Smoot and Scrinver, 2012). A difference to reduce the number of casualties that might result from missions and increase criminals apprehended should be a team effort. Even though the SWAT team leader makes the final decision, there should be a sharing of ideas so that there are high levels of effectiveness. To increase the level of responsibility and accountability, the leaders should ask the team members to give reasons as to why the ideas that they give should be implemented. This would encourage critical thinking and even assist the leader to gauge the progress of the members incase promotions come up (Batts, Smoot and Scrinver, 2012).
According to Avolio, Gardner, Walumbwa & May (2004), it is important for leaders to explore new management techniques so as to maximize the performance of his/ her followers. In order to be able to learn their strength and weaknesses, the leader has to invest time and spend it with the team members so as to understand what motivates them, since they all have different personalities. As much as the SWAT team leader interacts with the members, he/ she should portray respect and lead by example such as undertaking challenging activities. The leader should hold team building events so that the team members “bond” and there is a cohesiveness in a team. When the team members of a SWAT unit are in the field, their lives depend on each other. It is therefore important to learn each other’s characters so that they understand how they operate.
V. Case Studies – As part of this research effort, I will summarize the following three cases from academic, professional or media resources which highlight or support the problem, issue or concern.
In March of last year (2013), a police officer shot and killed an assailant in Albuquerque. Police officers had been called in to solve a different crime, but the SWAT officer ended up chasing the assailant who the saw the police started running away, and later pulled out a gun, and shot at the police officer. This case exposes the need for good leadership to ensure that SWAT team members remain motivated throughout so that they are alert, even when they are not a mission that is considered high risk (Perez, 2014).
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (2014), there should be education of the members of the public on the instituting of new roles of the SWAT teams so that they feel safe. There are individuals who have complained that the SWAT team members are too aggressive in the manner in which they handle the members of the public. Proper leadership to the SWAT members would show them the need of treating the members of the public in a manner that is friendly yet firm so as to maintain their confidence. With increased scrutiny on the different police force agencies, there is need to maintain public support.
According to Goldberg, (2014), there is need for a change in the manner in which the SWAT team officers are trained and integrated into technical situations. Too many individuals and human rights agencies have complained of the excessive use of force by these professionals.
VI. Administrative Application
I am proposing the application of various solutions that would reduce the number of mishaps that have occurred in various police departments all over the country due to inefficient leadership styles. One of the symptoms of poor leadership is poor communication among the leader and team members. Leaders can ensure refresher training for the members on the need for constant and consistent communication to ensure that duties are executed as expected with minimal casualties.
- Biblical Perspective
From a biblical perspective, it is very important for a leader to be wise so that he can be able to make important and sound decisions that will have positive outcomes. For a SWAT team leader, he should be able to know when to delegate just as Moses chose Joshua and he would guide him on what to do. In one instance, Moses told Joshua to choose some men who would go to battle against the Amalekites (Exodus, 17:9). According to Titus, 2: 7 -8, a leader should be easy to approach and able to control his/ her temper especially if a mission does not turn out as planned. This is the only way in which members of the team would feel comfortable enough to approach the leader and make suggestions on how the end goals can be achieved in a better manner.
I will agree with the authors of the journal articles that I have included in my study. Nowadays, there are technological tools that have made information accessible to a large number of individuals. The members of a SWAT team are such individuals that have access to information that can assist in better outcomes due to their input in coming up with solutions to risk engagements that they have to deal with such as going into a hostage situation to save the kidnapped members of the public. As much as the immediate need for security measures and tight timeline requires that autocratic style of leadership is the most effective in leading a SWAT team, the leaders should be ready to get the input of team members so as to increase efficiency and communication in execution and successful completion of missions.
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