God Bless S.W.A.T. – The Self Defense Company

God Bless S.W.A.T.

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      When a threat arises that the average street cop can’t handle they call for back up and when they do the nearest S.W.A.T. unit arrives on the scene. How did it all get started though? Who decided to apply military weapons and tactics to the streets? The answer might surprise you…

      It is a common misconception that the concept of Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) was first introduced by the Los Angeles police department (L.A.P.D.) in the late 1960’s to deal with dangerous situations regular police officer couldn’t handle. While the L.A.P.D. should be praised for their fine work expanding and maintaining the concept was developed by William E. Fairbairn, and the Shanghai Municipal Police (S.M.P.) who originally pioneered the Special Weapons and Tactics concept back in 1920’s.

      The Shanghai Municipal Police established the Reserve Unit under Fairbairn’s command to deal with riots, urban guerrillas, and terrorists in Shanghai. While many know about Fairbairn’s work with Special Forces units in World War II he was first and foremost a cop who used his knowledge of close combat martial arts to fight the war on crime.

      Joining the Shanghai police department was the urban equivalent of the Alamo where a police officer was surrounded by enemies and their were few friends. The Green Gang, a secret society similar to the Sicilian mafia controlled all the crime in the coastal city. They were brutal enforcers who had no problem killing civilians or police officers. Murders became such a common occurrence that they stopped being front page of the news, and kidnapping for profit became its own industry. Those who lived in the International Settlement were considered occupiers, and if dealing with the hostile population of an overcrowded city wasn’t enough the surrounding area was filled with communist insurgences, drug smugglers, and warlords. Things were so bad that rioters even attacked a police station, but after lethal force was used the Shanghai Municipal Council ordered the police force to improve how they handled street fights.

      The new unit was called the Reserve Unit or Riot Squad, because it was held in reserve until high risk incident occurred. Over its thirty year history the new unit would be the first police unit to use equipment like automatic weapons, carbines, and high-powered rifles. They were also the first to use chemical agents, body armor, forcible entry tools and ladders which were kept on board the unit’s truck named “The Red Maria.” Fairbairn built a model city named “Wee-Burg,” so he could better plan dangerous operations in built-up areas. Reserve officer Eric Anthony Sykes who worked as an agent for Remington and Colt in China would form the first counter-sniper teams for urban warfare, and Fairbairn an expert in several martial arts taught his men jujutsu-based hand-to-hand combat techniques that proved so effective that they would be taught to every member of the police force.

      The Reserve officers who patrolled in the International Settlement were a diverse group that included British, Chinese, Japanese, and Sikh officers who shared their martial arts knowledge with one another. All reserves officers were armed with a concealed colt .45’s or carbines, batons, and were taught knife fighting. The streets were also patrolled by soldiers and police officers from 14 nations including U.S. Marshals, Japanese police officers, and even mercenaries. Fairbairn included American Marines and British soldiers in raids and training. This experience would be invaluable in helping the Marines improve their close combat training program.

      Today special weapons and tactics units are everywhere, and even street cops are being trained and equipped so they can immediately respond to threats. The L.A.P.D.’s SWAT team enjoys an almost mythical status now thanks to the media and films, but they

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