The Special Weapons and Tactics team, which was created in 1975, consists of officers from within the department who are trained in special tactics for high-risk situations.How did it start? In the early 1970s, new paramilitary tactics were being tried to combat the ever-increasing violence that was coming on the scene in America – much of it due to drugs. In Pensacola, some old-timers remember that the idea for forming a SWAT team by the Pensacola Police Department was born from the following: A Bank Robbery suspect ran into a house on Fairfield Drive just West of 9th Avenue. Police officers cornered him and he refused to come out. Were there others in the house? What kind of weapons did he have? Were there accomplices?
Because Bank Robbery is a federal crime, the FBI was on the scene. The Special Agent in charge, Fred McFaul, found himself in charge. After unsuccessful attempts to talk the subject out with a megaphone, as well as officers trying to kick in the back door, the officers were at a loss. They had no K9, so the FBI offered up their SWAT Team. However, before the team arrived, a shot was heard. The suspect killed himself, ending the standoff.
After the incident, Pensacola Police Chief Lou Goss decided that the police department needed their own SWAT team. Officers applied and were chosen based on their police knowledge, physical skills, shooting ability, ability to be a team player, and record with the department. Once chosen, they were sent to SWAT training school where they learned the unique strategy of a SWAT team approach. The idea is this: due to the nature of police work, officers almost always deal with citizens of the town. Also, they usually work alone, so their tactics involve a loner approach. Conversely, a military unit often battles non-citizens, and works as a team. A SWAT approach combines both. The team learns to work together vs alone, and they have to engage citizens, not combatants from other countries. They also learn to use special weapons such as non-lethal options. The overall result is a very effective unit.
Not long after SWAT teams became popular with most agencies, the idea of hostage negotiators came up. Realizing it was a good idea to have a trained officer – who was familiar with both the psychological and the law enforcement side of a situation – handle a negotiation brought the abilities of agencies to a new level. Two other developments followed. First, negotiators can be used for many different scenarios and not just hostage situations. Second, it is a great advantage if negotiators and SWAT teams work closely, giving officers an advantage in all situations.
As high-risk situations became more common, SWAT teams began being used in numerous situations, such as: barricaded suspects, mentally unstable, potentially violent citizens, dignitary protection and high-risk search warrants.
The Pensacola Police SWAT team has always exhibited the highest level of professionalism and efficiency.