Regional SWAT

Over 40 years ago the Los Angeles Police Department pioneered the concept of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. Since then, law enforcement agencies throughout the world have copied that innovative concept. San Luis Obispo County is no exception.

San Luis Obispo County currently has two Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. One team is composed of deputies from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department and the officers from the Atascadero Police Department. The other team, the San Luis Obispo Regional SWAT team, is composed of officers from the Arroyo Grande Police Department and officers from several other police agencies in the County including the San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, Grover Beach, Paso Robles, and California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo Police Departments. Currently the two SWAT teams do not interact or train together on a regular basis, although for major or lengthy incidents both teams would likely be deployed in support of each other. As such, there is some desire among the Chiefs of Police in the County that both SWAT teams begin to interact and train together on a more frequent basis.

There are four officers from the Arroyo Grande Police Department assigned to the Regional SWAT team. Each of the officers volunteered for the assignment to the SWAT team and each had to undergo an intensive selection process, including physical agility and firearms qualification courses and an oral interview process. The selection process is designed to determine each officer’s ability to function effectively and safely in a team environment in high stress situations such as barricaded suspects, active shooting situations and hostage incidents. The officers are selected for this demanding assignment as much for their decision making and judgment skills as for their physical fitness and agility and firearms skills.

The assignment to the SWAT team is not a primary duty assignment; it is an ancillary duty, but the officers must commit to maintaining their physical fitness and firearms skills and to attending monthly training sessions during which the team repeatedly practices their responses to tactical situations. The team practices responses for incidents as varied as hostage takers on an airplane and a bus to barricaded suspects in residences. Each member of the Regional SWAT team has a specific duty assignment and/or expertise on the team that may range from scout to sniper to entry team member.

All the members of the Regional SWAT team, from all the independent police agencies, are integrated into one combined organizational team hierarchy and leadership positions. The current Commander of the Regional SWAT team is a San Luis Obispo Police Department Captain. The Regional SWAT team ultimately is under the control of a Board of Governors that includes Chiefs of Police from San Luis Obispo County law enforcement agencies. If you would like more information regarding the Regional SWAT team, please contact the Arroyo Grande Police Department at 805/473-5100.