Tactical Officers Honor Two SWAT Pioneers

Attendees of the NTOA conference starting Sunday have the rare privilege to be in the presence of two living legends of SWAT. Ron McCarthy and John Kolman made SWAT the respected "profession within a profession" that it is today.

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One of the highlights of the 27th annual National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) conference now under way in Pittsburgh is "An Evening With Ron McCarthy and John Kolman" on Sunday.

Once again, this year's five-day conference offers top notch training and instructors. The NTOA conference brochure describes the rare event as, "A unique opportunity to interact with and ask questions of two people who have lived the past and can discuss the future of SWAT—from the Black Panther party to Mumbai."

Attendees have the rare, unique privilege and honor to be in the presence of two living legends of SWAT. These two fine men whose tireless efforts for more than 40 years have combined to make SWAT the respected "profession within a profession" that it is today.

A little background is in order to help explain why they are widely considered such "living legends" of SWAT. 

Many know that SWAT had its origins in the LAPD in 1966, as Metropolitan Division's D Platoon. Ron McCarthy was an early LAPD Metro member was among LAPD SWAT's earliest, most influential members. Ron was involved in nearly every major LAPD SWAT incident, including the famed SLA shootout, where he earned LAPD's Medal of Valor.

Ultimately, Ron would become LAPD SWAT's senior sergeant and one of the most respected SWAT practitioners in the nation. Ron retired from LAPD in the mid-1980s, as the senior SWAT sergeant.

Few know that in 1958 LASD created its Special Enforcement Detail (SED), the predecessor to the current LASD Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) that includes SWAT. One of the earliest LASD SWAT commanders was Lt. John Kolman. John quickly earned a richly deserved reputation as one of the finest SWAT commanders in existence.

His 1982 book, "Guide to the Development of Special Weapons and Tactics Team," immediately became the "Bible" for SWAT teams throughout the nation. Then, in 1983, John formed what quickly became the most influential SWAT support organization in the world—the NTOA.

I first heard the name Ron McCarthy years ago, when our captain roomed with LAPD SWAT Commander Jeff Rogers at the FBI National Academy. When our captain returned, he told us LAPD SWAT had "their own Art Schwelgien." While I didn't know Ron (yet), Art and I were fellow SWAT sergeants and good friends. I quickly realized our captain had just paid both these fine men the ultimate mutual compliment.

I first heard the name John Kolman with the publication of his "Guide to the Development of Special Weapons and Tactics Teams," which I bought and read, digesting every word, in what many still consider the definitive SWAT "Bible." When John formed NTOA in 1983, our team (Cleveland PD SWAT) had the honor of hosting the first NTOA team membership. 

Having two equally outstanding, full-time SWAT teams in the same metropolitan area is almost certain to breed a healthy rivalry. The result is both LASD and LAPD SWAT are universally recognized among the "best" SWAT teams in the world. 

LAPD and LASD SWAT's "friendly" rivalry is legendary and, early on, included an annual "good guys vs. bad guys" competition played "for real" and bragging rights. It doesn't matter who "won," because both "won" - by learning from their counterparts, making both teams better.

This fierce rivalry was set aside during the preparation and protection of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. LAPD and LASD worked together to pull off what was one of the most challenging tasks in U.S. LE history. Both SWAT teams prepared, trained and worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of athletes and attendees involved in the Olympics.

The security planning and protection of the 1984 Olympics continues to serve as a model for future Olympics â€” in large part due to the professional excellence of LAPD and LASD SWAT, as well as John Kolman and Ron McCarthy.

During the mid-1980's the Ohio Tactical Officers Association (OTOA) was formed with its first annual conference held in Columbus. OTOA was fortunate to have McCarthy and Kolman as keynote speakers in back-to-back years. Hundreds of SWAT officers from Ohio and beyond (myself included) saw firsthand why LAPD and LASD SWAT have well-deserved reputations for tactical excellence.

In the words of my good friend and fellow SWAT Sgt. Art Schwelgien, Kolman and McCarthy are "role models wisely to be emulated."

About the Author
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SWAT Sergeant (Ret.)
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