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History of S.W.A.T.

The special weapons and tactics concept originated in the late 1960s as a result of several sniping incidents against civilians and police officers around the country. Many of these incidents occurred in Los Angeles during and after the Watts Riot. Upon critical examination of how each incident was managed by police, the leadership of the LAPD realized that an effective response to these dangerous situations was virtually non-existent. Officer John Nelson presented the special weapons and tactics concept to a young inspector by the name of Darryl F. Gates. Inspector Gates concurred and approved the concept of a small group of highly disciplined officers utilizing special weapons and tactics to cope with these unusual and difficult attacks.

The first Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) Unit consisted of 15 four-man teams. Members of each team, who volunteered from the ranks of patrol and other police assignments, had specialized experience and prior military service. Each unit was activated for monthly training or when the need for special weapons personnel actually arose. These units, known as "station defense teams," provided security for police facilities during civil unrest.

In 1971, the SWAT personnel were assigned on a full-time basis to Metropolitan Division to respond to continuing action by subversive groups, the rising crime rate and the continuing difficulty of mustering a team response in a timely manner. Metropolitan Division, which had a long-established reputation as the tactical unit of the Department, was organized into "A", "B" and "C" Platoons. The Special Weapons And Tactics Unit was given the designation of "D" Platoon, and at the same time formally adopted the acronym SWAT.