SWAT TEAMSSWAT Team Members as Amateur Inventors Who Make a Difference

Published 19 May 2022

SWAT teams routinely enter dangerous situations where they need to make difficult, potentially life-and-death decisions. Such challenging circumstances present opportunities for innovation, and these first responders are often amateur inventors as well.

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams routinely enter dangerous situations where they need to make difficult, potentially life-and-death decisions. They’re expected to be ready for anything, think outside the box, and problem-solve on the fly. As is often the case, challenging circumstances such as these present a prime opportunity for innovation. It is no wonder these responders are often amateur inventors as well. They have some serious scientific backup when it comes to bringing their creations to the front line.

Developing Do-it-Yourself Solutions
The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T’s) says it leverages the power of technology to solve homeland security challenges, and S&T’s Research and Prototyping for Tactical Operations (RAPTOR) program is an example of that. Similar to the Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) program, which supports bomb squads, RAPTOR enhances the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of our nation’s SWAT officers. This happens through evaluation of existing and emerging technologies—many of which are designed by officers themselves, borne out of their personal experiences—in realistic operational environments. RAPTOR held its first operational assessment in late 2019, and the results are now influencing SWAT equipment acquisitions and tactics, techniques, and procedures development.

RAPTOR has grown to support tactical operators in the first responder community more than ever with the introduction of a Micro Research and Development (R&D) program last year. Like the REDOPS Micro R&D program, the RAPTOR initiative provides identification, validation, and publication of “do-it-yourself” tools that meet immediate operational needs. S&T says that thanks to the REDOPS Micro R&D program, which started in 2016, more than 40 tools have been built by more than 200 different bomb squads. It is expected that as RAPTOR Micro R&D continues, there will be a similar or even greater impact compared to what REDOPS has done for bomb squads. There are more than 10 times as many SWAT teams as bomb squads in the United States, but no other federal program is specifically focused on meeting their needs.

“Both RAPTOR and REDOPS leverage commercial-off-the-shelf R&D solutions discovered by real-life responders,” explained S&T program manager Byung Hee Kim. “Both programs provide a structure for solving tactical operators’ critical issues. S&T fosters these solutions with the ultimate goal of safeguarding first responders’ lives and the lives of those they’re sworn to protect.”

In December 2021, the first three S&T-validated RAPTOR Micro R&D tools were published to TRIPwire—a secure online portal managed by the Department of Homeland Security. SWAT team members across the