Law Enforcement Technology

JAN 2016

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www.officer.com January 2016 Law Enforcement Technology 15 accepted, but I think that's in the past," says Jolie Macias, patrol sergeant and SWAT team member, Newark (Calif.) Police Department. "Agencies are much more open to women being on tactical teams. There have been many of us that have proven that we can stand side by side and do the same job as men. I got on the team almost ten years ago now and I was the first woman from my department on the team. Initially, there was skepticism from older operators and it took them seeing me compete and perform better than some of these guys on physical challenges to accept me." J'Nean Caserta was the first female SWAT team member in the Philadelphia PD, and one of two on the team now. "I think you have to prove yourself when you come into any spe- cialized unit," she says. "I was singled out because I was new, not because of my gender. I was a police officer for 13 years and I knew I was going to have to start all over again as a rookie." Caserta has become a role model, an inspiration for other women who might not have considered SWAT before. "I believe that many women feel that they might not be able to perform the duties, so not many go for SWAT," she says. " W hen I got here, my name got out there in the department and all of sudden, we saw an increase in female applicants." Physical standards Most agencies have a specific fitness and skills test to qualify for tactical teams. Some would argue that these tests are too heavily skewed towards upper body strength, while others feel that there should be no special considerations given to women who want to join SWAT. "Sure, SWAT teams have to carry additional weight and you have to train yourself to have the strength and stamina, because the call outs last for hours," says Louka Tactical Training's Hamblin. "I would argue that they need to start looking at physical tests as relates to the job tasks. There has to be a foundational level of fitness and well- ness for tactical teams. Everybody is a team member, but not everyone has the ram in their hand, not everyone is going to be a sniper. Every member has a spe- cialty and a backup specialty." There is no standardized, national test. "When we first implemented a fit- ness test for our team there was discus- sion about whether there should be dif- ferent standards for men and women," Berkeley's Louis says. "My push has always been that everyone should be held to the same standard. The old image of the SRT operator that is a hulking, former football player is not the case anymore. The fit, athletic body type that is the standard now is much more attainable for women." The situation today For women, joining a tactical team is an uphill battle, with the odds often stacked against them. "I started trying out for the SWAT team before I was even eligible," recalls Heather Williams, sergeant and SWAT team member, Chattanooga (Tenn.) PD. "I tried out five times and passed all five times, but I was not selected until my fifth try. Even though I had a lot Lou Ann Hamblin, Mass., CEO, Louka Tactical Training, leading a training session. of support, there were still some team members that were not ready for females to be part of the team. I felt all I needed was the opportunity to prove myself." Sara Ahrens, retired SWAT, had a very difficult time making it onto SWAT. "My agency never had women on their SWAT team—I was on a tacti- cal team working in Vice, but there were no standards for that team," she recalls. "After six years, SWAT had 18 openings on a 26-person unit. I took the test. I was in the top three of the 18 people testing, and 14 out of the 18 were select- ed, and I was not one of them." Ahrens eventually made the team, but nothing came easily to her, other than the actual skills she needed for SWAT. "I never had any issues with the guys on the team. They were extremely helpful. The administrators, on the other hand, really made it difficult. They gave me XL BDUs, an XL helmet, I wasn't given certain equipment—I had to buy all my own equipment. I think they were setting me up for failure." Advice for women officers The women already in place on tactical teams, or who have worked on tacti- cal teams and moved on, have plenty

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