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The SWAT Team Today

The San Diego SWAT Team is made up of 80-100 San Diego police officers, both full and part-time.  The full time team makes up the Special Response Team (SRT) which includes the hostage rescue team. The SRT is also responsible for leading training for the team and the entire police department on specialized topics.


The part time SWAT officers make up two teams, the snipers and the Primary Response Team (PRT).  The snipers are comprised of sharpshooters and intelligence collectors highly trained in their specialization. The PRT is made up of the remaining members of the SWAT team. The PRT makes the San Diego SWAT team unique as it enables the quick deployment of a response team at any time of day. At any given time there are at least seven members of the SWAT team on patrol in the city.  Because of this, these officers are ready to deploy quickly to a situation with the needed training and equipment.


SWAT team responsibilities include: confronting heavily armed criminals, hostage rescue, disaster events, mob and riot containment, underwater evidence recovery, special trauma and rescue, and law enforcement training. The team operates with specialized equipment such as body armor, entry tools, armored vehicles, personal protective gear, surveillance equipment and advanced weapons.

History of the SWAT Team

The San Diego Police Department’s SWAT Team was created soon after the Hub Jewelry and Pawnshop shootout of 1965. Civil unrest of the 1960’s and 70’s also influenced the department’s decision to form a specialized team. Known as the Anti-Sniper Platoon, the first SDPD SWAT team was comprised of patrol officers with military experience. As the team developed, a number of tragedies, including officer fatalities, led to the creation of our Primary Response Team (PRT). The PRT concept has stood the test of time and still today, ensures the rapid response of SWAT resources any time of the day or night.


For many years, the McDonald’s massacre of 1984 was the largest mass murder in the history of our country. After this tragedy, it was clear that a dedicated hostage rescue team was a vital component to the unit. The formation of our Special Response Team (SRT) soon followed. SRT is currently made up of veteran SWAT officers averaging over 20 years of law enforcement experience. Because of SRT’s capabilities in Hostage Rescue, Barricaded Suspect, Counter-Terrorism, Dignitary Protection, Explosive Breaching, and numerous other disciplines, the SWAT Unit is ranked as a top-level team by California and National police standards.

About Citizens for SWAT

Citizens for SWAT was created in 2005 to ensure that the San Diego SWAT team is equipped with the most up-to-date and effective equipment and to ensure the continued safety of the citizens of San Diego.  They donate equipment such as vehicles, weapons, personal protection and new technology.


It was the brainchild of former SWAT Commanding Officer Ray Shay.  After watching one of his officers hold a flashlight alongside his AR-15 rifle while trying to climb a fence in a high-risk situation, he approached his superiors about improving the level of equipment for the team.  The response was “well Ray, it sounds like you need to have a bake sale.” 


Years later, it's not a bake sale, but a golf tournament that raises funds each year to provide support for new and more effective equipment for the SWAT team. The golf tournament is well known in San Diego for offering sponsors a quality opportunity to help a great cause, enjoy an exceptional day of golf and hear first hand about the great work of the San Diego SWAT team.


Reason for Citizens for SWAT

The same thing that makes this SWAT team unique is also what makes it difficult to keep it outfitted and equipped with the best and safest equipment.  Keeping up to 100 members of the team equipped is difficult in good budget times, let alone the current fiscal situation facing San Diego and so many other cities in America.


The team often relies on hand-me-down military gear, but this gear tends to be well used and out-of-date.  Another complicating factor is the speed at which technology is developing these days. Advances in equipment and technology make it hard to keep up with the best and most effective equipment necessary.


Citizens for SWAT raises funds through sponsors who donate at a variety of levels to fund the purchase of this equipment. To date, the organization has raised more than $1,000,000 which has helped provide much needed equipment such as a rapid deployment vehicle, gear, robots, and weapons.

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