Paramilitarism

Law Enforcement in the 1960s began to call for the establishment of dedicated units that could react competently to high risk procedures after several highly publicized hostage and sniper situations. The incident that inspired the SWAT concept occurred in August of 1966. A disturbed man climbed to the top of the 32-story clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin. For 96 minutes he erratically shot 46 people, killing 15 of them, until two police officers got to the top of the tower and killed him. (MacLoed) This incident was so evident that it traumatized the safety as American?s know it and gave police the final incentive they needed to form their own SWAT teams. Shortly after that, the Los Angeles Police Department formed the first SWAT team and originated the word SWAT to describe its influential team. The Los Angeles SWAT unit acquired national prestige when it was used successfully against the Black Panthers in 1969 and the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1973. (NDSN 1997)
Police paramilitary units also known as SWAT teams were modeled after military special operations squads like the Navy Seals for example and other police paramilitary teams in foreign countries. By the mid 1970s larger city police agencies followed the ideas of the Los Angeles Police Department in establishing SWAT teams. It is very imperative to plainly describe traditional police and policing from police paramilitary units and their activities. Police paramilitary units are organized and they train much like a military special operations team with a strict military command structure and discipline. Units consist of anywhere from 10 to 40 members; the bulk of tactical operations officers function also as patrol officers during their regular duties. The units have the option to threaten or use force collectively, as opposed to the individually based approach in traditional policing. Operationally, police paramilitary units are deployed to deal with situations that require a team of police officers specifically trained to be use of force specialists. These units have historically operated as reactive units, handling only those rare and strictly defined, high risk situations already in progress such as hostage, barricaded suspect, and terrorist, civil disturbance and sniper situations. (Auten 1985)
Other distinguishing characteristics of police paramilitary units are the nature of the hardware they employ and their attire. They generally outfit themselves with black or urban camouflage battle dress uniforms, full body armor, and Kevlar helmets. police paramilitary units weaponry and hardware include submachine guns, tactical shotguns, sniper rifles, percussion grenades, tear gas and pepper gas, surveillance equipment, and an array of less than lethal technologies. (NDSN 1997)
Police paramilitary units have received little attention as far as research is concerned. It is important to demonstrate the degree to which they are becoming a common component of present-day policing. In an attempt to document and understand the current state of paramilitary policing, Peter B. Kraska has conducted extensive field research on police paramilitary units in several agencies, including agencies in Kentucky, has completed two national surveys, and has conducted over 130 in-depth telephone interviews with members of the police paramilitary units community from across the nation. The first mail survey was sent in the first part of 1996 to all law enforcement agencies serving communities of 50,000 people or more. This resulted in a 79% response rate. The second was sent in the latter half of 1996 to all law enforcement agencies serving communities between 25,000 and 50,000 citizens and resulted in a 72% response rate. The responding agencies provided yearly data demonstrating a steep growth in the formation of police paramilitary units and a sharp increase in their use in the last decade. By the end of 1995, about 90 percent of law enforcement agencies serving populations of 50,000 people or more had a police paramilitary unit. (Kraska 2001) Although larger agencies formed their units in the 1970s, the numbers of police paramilitary units have grown steadily; in 1982 only about 55 percent had such a unit. In agencies serving 25,000 to 50,000 people, 65 percent had police paramilitary units by the end of 1995. Between 1985 and 1995 there was a 157 percent increase in paramilitary units in agencies serving small jurisdictions. It is likely that by the turn of the century, three-fourths of these small departments will have police paramilitary units. (Weber 1999)
The most significant finding in this research is that SWAT teams have expanded