Earlier this month we had the fire arms qualification, physical agility testing, and stress shoot portions of the of the SWAT test. This week I sat on the panel for the interview portion of the test. The reason I mention it is because an interesting discussion / debate occurred between the members on the interview panel that I felt would be educational / entertaining to the readers of the Budo Blog.
The panel had the combined (stress shoot and qualification) shooting score, the physical agility score, and the overall score (combined shooting and physical agility) for each candidate.
Our job on the interview panel was to assign a score based on their response to our questions, and to come up with an overall score.
This overall score would be used to rank the candidates and the top candidates from this list would be asked to join the team on a probationary basis.
The discussion / debate revolved around how weigh the test scores.
Should it be 33% shooting, 33% fitness, and 33% interview?
Should it be 50 / 50 between combined shooting / fitness and interview?
The opinion I gave to the panel is roughly as follows:
For me the physical agility and shooting portion is used to set a baseline and assure that candidates meet a certain level of proficiency. Basically meaning they are skilled enough to work with. That we don’t have to rebuild them from scratch.
Ideally these tests reflect the lifestyles and the habits of the candidate.
What I mean by this is that candidates that exercise regularly to maintain their fitness will score much better than someone who just started working out in order to pass the pt test.
I would rather work with someone for whom fitness is a regular part of their life and maybe picked it up a notch or switched a few things up in order to max the pt test as opposed to someone who is already a professional law enforcement officer but doesn’t take that job / responsibility seriously enough to maintain their fitness, and needed the possibility of joining an elite law enforcement unit to inspire them to start doing what I consider the bare requirements of their job.
The same applies to firearms skills. Candidates that train regularly to maintain their shooting skills will score much better than someone who just started doing things on their own in order to pass the shooting portion of the SWAT test.
The test will also favor those smart enough to seek out help. Shooting on your own time with your own money is a huge step up over most other law enforcement officers.
However, as I’ve stated on this blog many times before – practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.
It doesn’t do you much good to go to the range on your own and practice missing. Much better to seek out the help of someone you know is a good shot, and can help you become better.
[I was very fortunate to know Greg Sullivan through martial arts connections. “Sully” as he is known is a fantastic firearms instructor. Before I applied for the team back in the day, he helped me get rid of some bad habits I wouldn’t have been able to get rid of by just training on my own.
“Sully” if you ever read this, thank you.]
Again, I would rather work with someone for whom firearms skill is a regular part of their life. Maybe they sought out someone to help them pick it up a notch or switched a few things up in order to max the shooting test, but maintaining their skills is something they did on their own as a part of their job. As opposed to someone who is already a professional law enforcement officer but doesn’t take that job / responsibility seriously enough to maintain their shooting skills. They don’t do anything beyond their departments minimum training (which can be as little as 100 rounds per year), and needed the possibility of joining an elite law enforcement unit to inspire them to start doing what I consider the bare requirements of their job.
My thought being if you don’t do what it takes to be the best law enforcement officer you can be at your current position, what makes you think you will be able to hack it at a higher level?
I want guys that are the best at what they do and want to be the there is period. They are seeking out higher levels of performance to master. Not guys that slack at their current position but will pick it up a notch for something special.
So back to the question, how do you weigh the tests?
I figured 50 / 50. As I stated the tests will favor the type of candidate I’m looking for. Those that strive to be the best.
Having said that there are attributes that may or may not show up in the other tests that need to be identified in the interview process.
Not the least of which are:
Can I stand to be stuck in a van with you for hours?
Can we spend a week training together without tempting me to snap your neck?
In all seriousness though there are certain attributes that are needed as an operator.
I need to know you will show up when called, and when called you will do what is necessary to protect the people we are employed to protect.
I need to know you will cover your assignments with the skill necessary to asure we all go home safe.
The interviews should be used to identify those attributes or the lack there of.
I have three beautiful daughters. If, God forbid any of them were taken hostage, I pray there is an Operator there skilled enough to end the threat and save my daughter from harm, even if that Operator has to trade his life for her’s.
Because I expect that of someone else, I have to maintain the skills necessary to save someone else’s loved one from harm, even if necessary, at the expense of my own life.
Beyond skills and fitness, the willingness to put yourself in danger to save others, and the confidence – hell cockiness that allows you to go through that door knowing that it is dangerous but you are so much better than the bad guy that you and that innocent, or the hostage, or whatever, will come out of it just fine. Those are the qualities the interview needs to discover.
As much as those qualities can be discovered through words anyway.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting using unsound tactics or being some sort of cowboy throwing your life away. Do everything smart, but even then there may come a time when you need to trade your life to save the lives of others.
Because, it doesn’t do anyone any good to have the best trained and equipped Operators maintain a parameter and do nothing while innocents are being killed inside.
Unused / unusable skill is worthless.
Operators need to be able to get inside and stop the threat from killing.
I can train someone to be a better shooter. I can train someone to be fit.
But, some things just can’t be taught
I can train you to be a highly skilled predator, but I can’t turn a lamb into a lion.
So the shooting and pt tests should determine who gets an interview
The interview should inditify necessary traights not necessarly idintifiable from the other tests.
The top candidates that display those traights should be given an oportunity for making the team
Train hard, Train smart, Be safe.
P.S. On this Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for all the Lions I am surrounded by that constantly push me to be better.
And all of you out there that put your life at risk to protect others – Thank You