Should SWAT reflect elite abilities or the diverse make up of the city?

Robert CJ Parry has an op ed piece worth reading in the LA Times today.  Titled “The LAPD’s assault on SWAT” and he asks simply do you want them to be an elite tactical police or reflect the wide ranging faces of the community?

Berta responded to my “what pet peeve would you want me to ask a cop” with this question that is very much on target with Mr. Parry’s well written essay.  Berta asked:

“I’ve always wondered if race was considered when filling positions for patrol officers in the communities that they serve? Seems like a silly question & a direct response would probably be considered prejudiced. Years back I did observe a few patrols in Monrovia wherein one person was white and the other black…which doesn’t seem to be the case today. A female officer is brought to a site when a female offender is involved due to the possible legal ramifications (I assume) & so I’m wondering if it applies in each angle?”

Mr Parry sums up his op ed with the following bit:

“SWAT is too important to this city to be weakened in the name of political correctness. Unless the Police Commission or other officials act, the LAPD will make social experimentation a higher priority than tactical excellence.”

So which is it with SWAT…blend to fit the face of the community or pick the elite tacticians best able to get the job done? 

5 thoughts on “Should SWAT reflect elite abilities or the diverse make up of the city?”

  1. Personally, I prefer to have the BEST person to do the job at hand,one who is judged on performance and ability, however, life is just not that simple. The first thought that hits my mind is the Rodney King misfortune…there were some officers on site that were African American & although I don’t remember what ‘if’ any comments they may have made in defense of the actions taken by the police there is an instant ‘visual identification/one of our own … so to speak which may be the ‘buffer’ needed in critical moments (?) There’s always a “tweek” or a “twist” put on anything that captures the publics attention, so WHAT DO YOU DO! Then there was O.J.’s case with primarily white officers searching his property; whatever evidence they gathered took on many twists most likely as a result of dis-trust. Johnny C was a great lawyer…identifying with his client didn’t hurt (?)

  2. Considering how many minorities and poor folks are in the military I dont see how there would be much of a problem finding folks of color with training and experience in the field.

    Why does there have to be a trade off?

    I also think that given the LAPD’s history of racism (within the ranks as well as in the community)up until not too long ago, we might be a little better off having some kind of system that ensures an ample amount of color in their elite forces. Dont forget that many cops of the “old guard” that was pretty white supremacist still exist and hold command in the LAPD and LASD, and have sway in decisions that are important, including who is promoted to SWAT. Would I trust the decision of an officer or genre of officers with a rep for racist actions, HELL NO!

  3. Hey, Fraz. When I saw the title of this story pop up in my RSS feed I just knew you had to be the author.

    In any event, this is a freakin’ no-brainer. The best man for the job, period, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, etc. Look, if some cranked-out maniac is holding your kid hostage with a gun to his head, do you want the best SWAT shaprshooter on the roof or a guy whose scores were okay enough to pass but there’s a 60/40 chance he might miss his target and instead your kid’s brains spill on the sidewalk instead.

    Like I said, no-brainer.

  4. I read this article and it was completely very slick how the guy presented this. Of course you want the best to save you, but who says SWAT does that. SWAT agends isn’t just about saving people.

    I’m going to bet SWAT is like all of the other civil service jobs that people WANT (entry level cops and teachers in inner city war zones don’t count), it’s a job you get by knowing someone.

    SWAT is an olds boy club and owing to that it needs to change how it recruits. Recruit the best of everyone, not just people referred by people who have buddies already in SWAT. Let’s not all pretend that with organizations like this that kind of thing happens, because it so does.

    That article was real 1950s America way of thinking.


  5. Oh let me add you can be black or Latino guy and be part of the old boy’s club, every club needs a mascot.


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