Having just completed a tactical leaders course I found myself revisiting a thought that crosses my mind from time to time about police tactical units and training. By a pretty large percentage, most police SWAT teams are “part-time”, meaning that the officers train 1-2 days a month and otherwise work as patrolmen, detectives, etc as their “full-time” job.
The thing that I seldom see addressed, in SWAT courses, literature or even over a beer with others in the tactical circles, is the issue of “off-duty” training. There’s plenty of talk about what “should be trained”, how vital PT is and how perishable weapon skills are, but WHEN is seldom addressed. Face it, formation running or group PT during a training day is nothing more than a team building exercise if your operators are not conducting physical conditioning on their own. Weapon proficiency of a SWAT standard isn’t going to be honed with the range time a part-time team gets. If a tactical unit member wants to seriously consider himself an “operator” he needs to have a “full-time attitude”. Just putting on your ACU’s and going off to your monthly training isn’t enough. Being “elite” isn’t a uniform or duty assignment, it’s what you DO. If you are only thinking about improving yourself 1-2 days out of the month than you are “part-time” between your ears.
The problem is…not all team members have the time, facilities, money or (sadly sometimes) the interest to pursue weapons training on their own “dime”. Add to it the fact that many departments (or certain key members within departments) are so risk/lawsuit averse that they wont give the departments stamp of approval to any training activity not supervised by department trainers and the result is many operators only shooting when their department provides it. Sure they get more trigger time than their co-workers who are not on the team, but not enough IMO.
Many of the best shooters I have met were good because of their personal interest in shooting/hunting. They would probably be good shooters even if they had never become cops. Fortunately many of those “types” are drawn to tactical teams within PD’s, but there are other SWAT coppers who, while not as “gun-nutty” as their brethren, would still love to shoot/train more often but are not provided with any sort of official support from their PD’s.
If it were a “my way” world and money were no object, I would love to see things like these available;
-PD ranges ran like civilian gun clubs where officers could go at anytime and shoot with department provided ammo/targets/gear.
-Departments providing their operators with take home training gear like SIRT Pistols, and/or training magazines, timers and dry-fire curriculum.
-The ability to use ranges, simulators or other department facilities without the approval of a Captain, two lieutenants, a sergeant and a letter from your mother. “If you build it they will come”…
In the end though, there are no excuses. There are things you can and should be doing ON YOUR OWN to keep up your skills.