Suit up, SWAT

LAPD Chief Darryl F. Gates was credited with developing the first SWAT (initially called the “Special Weapons Attack Team”) unit in the late 1960s. Agencies across the country saw the potential in the specialized unit and were quick to follow suit.

In the early days, SWAT equipment often meant little more than OD green military surplus store fatigues and gas masks passed down from the National Guard. Today’s Special Weapons and Tactics uniforms offer countless variations and technological advances. Capt. Chris Peterson, leader of Lincoln (Neb.) PD’s 15-man SWAT unit, sees to it that his officers are assigned new inventory and he rotates or replaces worn items on an as-needed bases.

“Budgets are obviously a concern,” says Peterson. “But the quality of the equipment or the clothing is important. A lot of times we … talk to the representative or the manufacturer and ask to take a look at the item and try it out before we put an order in.”


Look for a military-grade helmet that offers plenty of protection. Says Peterson: “For helmets we look at the ballistic capabilities and how they fit with our radio headsets.”


MOLLE weaving for pouches and equipment means you’ve got plenty of places to stash extra ammo.

Take Inventory

Goggles or sunglasses

  • Can they stand up to big blasts and flying debris?
  • Most goggles designed for military and LE have a futuristic, low-profile design and allow for easy lens replacement.

Gas mask

  • Look for: Toxic chemical and material protection in addition to communication capabilities.


  • Look for: Flame-resistant Nomex. Padded palms can offer extra stabilization and grip. A number of tactical gloves now play nice with touchscreens.

Knee pads

  • Look for: Heavy-duty plastic and plenty of cushion.


  • Take good care of your feet. For every one ounce more that a pair of boots weighs, that equates to carrying an extra 625 pounds around for the day. That’s 625 more pounds on your ankles, knees, shins, calves and lower back. (Original
View the Suit up, SWAT feature in the LET: August digital edition