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Tactical Officer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotTactical officers work in teams of eight to 20 to assist the police force with high-risk situations. Teams of tactical officers working with a negotiator are called special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams.

dotThey have many of the same duties and responsibilities as other police officers -- protecting the public, stopping crimes in progress and arresting suspects. But they handle some of the stickier cases.

dotSticky could mean a hostage situation or a suspect barricaded inside a building. It may also mean controlling crowds or providing protection for important dignitaries.

Tactical officers may have to surround and contain an area while a negotiator tries to work out a surrender. If the negotiations fail, the tactical team will then force the suspect to surrender, either by flushing the suspect out of the building with tear gas or by sneaking into the area.

dotThese officers are in top physical condition. Strength, agility and cardiovascular stamina are important. Tactical officers spend about two hours of their shift every day doing physical training, team drills and practicing their shooting skills.

"We have to be prepared for any physical circumstance. We could be crawling on our hands and knees for half a mile to get to a suspect, or spend half an hour hanging by our arms, so you have to be in top physical condition," says tactical officer Helen Ramsey.

dotOther methods of disarming suspects, such as hand-to-hand combat, are also important for tactical officers. In fact, many people in this field have black belts in the martial arts.

dotSWAT team members in the United States usually work full time as regular patrol officers, and are on call 24 hours a day.

At a Glance

Assist the police with high-risk situations

  • Many people in this field have black belts in the martial arts
  • These officers are in top physical condition
  • First you have to become a police officer