In "Role Models and Mentors," I wrote that role models and mentors are two-way streets. In order for role modeling and mentoring to be effective, both sides need to be open to the idea. From inception, SWAT and other tactical concepts have shown the ability, and effectiveness, of being tactical role models and mentors for SWAT and the rest of law enforcement.
In SWAT's early days, role models and mentors came largely from the ranks of individual "tactically proficient" officers, leading by example. Young officers were fortunate if they were able to hook up with veteran officers willing to show them the tactical ropes. Many younger officers learned from a distance, by example of "good" veterans.
Early SWAT teams also learned mostly from a distance by the examples of the first SWAT teams. Over time, some of the early SWAT teams began training teams across the nation, and the SWAT concept spread from there.
From its inception, SWAT has always recognized the importance of professionalism through training and networking — the twin concepts that anchor the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), which was founded by John Kolman to professionalize SWAT.
In turn, NTOA has given rise to a number of state and regional SWAT associations and tactical conferences, such as TREXPO, designed to enhance SWAT's professionalism through training and networking.
The idea of SWAT teams and officers as role models and mentors extends throughout all of SWAT. Smaller, less experienced teams often look to the larger, more experienced teams for guidance, training and networking. Such interaction benefits both receiver and giver alike.
Examples abound, particularly in larger metro areas, where the central city SWAT teams are often full-time, busy and experienced. Their suburban counterparts often seek the advice of their city counterparts, developing lasting relationships and rapport that benefits both.
Especially after 9/11, SWAT teams across America have been working together to resolve actual and potential real-world scenarios. Through mutual aid and training, more and more SWAT teams are able to more effectively work together to resolve situations beyond the capability of single SWAT teams. The all-important "trust" factor is greatly enhanced through such mutual aid agreements.
Most large, central-city law enforcement agencies set the example for their entire regions due to the higher volume of crime. The large central cities play a prominent, pivotal influence on their regional counterparts whether intentional or not.
The reality is that smaller teams look to their bigger counterparts for example and guidance. By sharing knowledge, expertise and advice throughout their regions, the bigger teams greatly enhance their own team's respect and reputations. Fortunately, the vast majority of SWAT teams and officers are more than willing to help and share their knowledge with other teams and their members.
In effect they become role models and mentors, while enhancing the professionalism of the entire SWAT profession.
When it comes to role models and mentors, the lessons learned work both ways — the givers and receivers benefit. Ask any instructors worth their salt, and they'll readily tell you they often learn as much, or more, than their trainees do. That's the way it should be among SWAT teams.
The message to SWAT teams and officers everywhere is simple. If you haven't already done so, reach out to your SWAT counterparts in other agencies. Get to know them, work and train with them. Build up that all-important mutual trust and confidence.
Because you never know when you might need each other.