In particularly difficult and dangerous situations involving armed criminals, the normal levels of manpower and firepower may be inadequate. Large cities often have special paramilitary units which are trained in high-risk tactical action to be deployed in such circumstances, and these units are called SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics). A SWAT team member is an individual who is assigned to such a squad and trained in the use of weapons such as assault and sniper rifles and, occasionally, special vehicles such as helicopters and armored personnel carriers.
SWAT officers must be physically fit and mentally sharp and understand standard infiltration tactics, crowd control practices, and hostage situations. As the name indicates, SWAT officers are trained in the use of weapons, armor, and equipment that regular police officers do not typically utilize. They must also be effective communicators, and it is essential that they function well as a part of a team. As they are often sent to conduct operations in dangerous situations and under a lot of stress, the bar is set high both in fitness and performance. It is just as important that SWAT officers are skilled marksmen as they are effective at receiving and executing orders, and only the most capable applicants are accepted.
Most SWAT team members begin their careers as regular police officers. Indeed, at least three years of police work may be a minimum requirement for this position, though applicants who have military experience often receive special consideration. Some police forces may prefer applicants who have an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice.