Tactical 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.
They 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.
Sticky could mean a hostage situation or a suspect barricaded inside a
building. It may also mean controlling crowds or providing protection for
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.
These 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
"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.
Other 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.
SWAT team members in the United States usually work full time as regular
patrol officers, and are on call 24 hours a day.