S.W.A.T.

The inside story of how America’s most tooled up task force cope with crime in the country’s gun-friendliest state.
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The inside story of how America’s most tooled up task force cope with crime in the country’s gun-friendliest state.

The genre of police documentaries-or, if you will, “Copumentaries” seems so replete that in order to create a new one you might think it would be necessary to start splicing together the existing shows in order to generate some kind of hybrid. But just as it seemed that the era of Forensic Rail Cops Uncut might be upon us, along comes Texas S.W.A.T, the inside story of how America’s most tooled up task force cope with crime in the country’s gun-friendliest state.

“When the public are in trouble, they call the police. When the police are in trouble, they call SWAT.” This is theory at least behind the existence of these teams whose role is to bring military force to bear on situations that have exceeded the bounds of everyday police work. The reality of course is that when such units exist, they have to be deployed. So for every fortified crack house stormed there are other situations where you can’t help feeling that a somewhat less martial response might have sufficed. Sociology aside, our grasp of SWAT teams is probably based more on Hollywood movies than the kind of grass roots reportage this programme offers. And though they mostly face substantial dangers, it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise if before the end of the series they end up using stun grenades to get a cat out of a tree.

SWAT stand for Special Weapons and Tactics and these guys have plenty of both. Especially weapons. Each episode tracks a series of raids, known as “Incursions” in major cities like Austin, Dallas and Amarillo. The tactics aspect involves a team talk not dissimilar in its nature to the one before a football match. Except that here the team are wearing full body armour and tend to outnumber the opposition by around five to one. “It’s a typical crack house,” begins one briefing “Barricaded windows, at least three suspects armed with two AK47’s and a pit bull trained to kill. And there’s a baby in the house so we can’t use grenades.” Suffice to say your average episode of The Bill appears tame by comparison.

Thus informed the team then move on to their weapons. Did I mention that they have a lot of weapons? Assault rifles, armoured cars, gas, grenades and helicopter support are standard. Indeed these guys have so many weapons that in their spare time they even build their own. They are especially fond of their homemade harpoon which when attached to a vehicle leaves most properties looking like they’ve been a hit by a localised typhoon.

The raids themselves are so devastating that at no point yet in the series have even the most hardened criminals been unwise enough to offer any resistance, but it’s bound to happen soon. In these situations, anything that ends up in a chase is perceived as an outright failure. These men have turned rapid surrender into such an art form that for now an alternative title for the show might be How Clean Is Your Crack House? Indeed, there might even be scope for a spin of series where Kim, Aggie, Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen and the House Doctor try and clean up afterwards. But after a brief redesign from the SWAT team, it’s probably wiser not to bother at all.