You’ve heard that LAPD is lowering the standards for its SWAT team. In this post, I reveal that an LAPD Assistant Chief denied this — just days before the news broke.
Recently, the wife of an LAPD SWAT team member heard that affirmative action was coming to SWAT. On March 10, she wrote LAPD Assistant Chief Sharon Papa, expressing concern that “there are actions being taken to lower the hiring standard for getting into SWAT.” Assistant Chief Papa replied: “I am not aware of any actions being taken to lower the standards for getting into SWAT.”
But such actions were being taken — as Assistant Chief Papa had to have known.
Contrary to Assistant Chief Papa’s e-mail, it has since been reported that a panel of “experts” appointed by LAPD did indeed secretly call for changing the SWAT’s rigorous entrance requirements. The standards have already been changed to eliminate much of the testing for proficiency in shooting and negotiating obstacle courses. These changes were reportedly a response to recommendations made by the panel of “experts,” who sought to make SWAT more open to women.
Even more interesting: the panel’s work was overseen by Assistant Chief Papa — the very person who denied to the SWAT member’s wife that SWAT’s standards were being lowered.
In this post, you will read the e-mails themselves.
Today I received the e-mails to and from Assistant Chief Papa, from a source who wishes to remain anonymous. That source was not the SWAT team member’s wife, although I confirmed the contents of the e-mails with her this evening. She told me that she sent the e-mail to Assistant Chief Papa out of a genuine concern that SWAT’s standards were being lowered, and forwarded the Assistant Chief’s response to people in her address book (not including me) for the same reason. She told me that her one and only concern is to ensure that SWAT maintains its high standards, for the safety of her husband and of the other members of SWAT.
Here is the full text of the e-mail the SWAT team member’s wife sent to Assistant Chief Papa:
Recently a group of LAPD SWAT wives gathered to learn how to support our husbands and deal with our redefined roles after the death of the first SWAT officer. This has had an enormous ripple effect through the SWAT families. The reality of how easily that could have been our husband. And although it wasn’t we have been consumed with guilt and grief for the family that was affected.
Now we have heard there are actions being taken to lower the hiring standard for getting into SWAT. Although I can’t speak for everyone the majority of us are offended that at this time of grieving that anyone would do this to these officers. We are concerned with the safety of our husbands, the father of our children if they are expected to go into these highly dangerous situations with someone who got in under a compromised standard. Of the 60 men on SWAT 52 are married.
It is widely believed this is an attempt to be politically correct and allow a female officer on the team. We do not begrudge a female making it on the team. And from what I understand neither do the men of SWAT. However, she needs to meet the same criteria. The motto of the SWAT team is “Uncompromised Duty Honor and Valor” this is compromising all those. You do not see the NFL, NHL, MLB lowering their standard to allow females to get to play. And those are entertainment organizations for profit. It defies common sense that a life saving organization would be willing to.
The SWAT selection certification process has been tried and tested. It has been in place for 20 years and it was approved by the city. If you watched Randy Simmons funeral or if you know any of the members of this elite division of law enforcement you would know it is working. Their record proves it. It doesn’t require change. Change is only good when something is not working.
We will not sit quietly by and allow you to compromise our husbands safety.
Assistant Chief Papa responded:
I am not aware of any actions being taken to lower the standards for getting into SWAT. I do know that the LASD [Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department] recently did a validation study of their requirements and our Chief wanted to have ours looked at as well to make sure our standards are still legally valid. I will forward your inquiry to Chief Paysinger and Chief Roupoli since they would be involved in any review that may currently be underway.
I appreciate your e-mail and certainly understand your concerns. Once I have more information, I will get back in touch with you.
Contrary to Assistant Chief Papa’s e-mail, the LAPD is indeed lowering SWAT’s standards — as Assistant Chief Papa surely must have known.
According to a March 18 article in the L.A. Times:
A panel of law enforcement experts convened by Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton to examine the department’s elite SWAT unit concluded in an undisclosed report that the rigorous testing to get into the unit should be changed to make it more open to women, called for tighter supervision and criticized officers for relying too heavily on force over negotiations.
According to the article, the standards have already changed:
Department officials recently imposed a shorter, less rigorous set of tests, according to several sources, including SWAT officers who said they were briefed on the changes.
An article published today adds new details, reporting that the new testing regime
does away with much of the shooting simulations and arduous obstacle courses used for the last decade, according to several officers briefed on the changes.
I confirmed this today with Robert C.J. Parry, who broke this story in an L.A. Times op-ed piece. In response to my request, Robert sent me a detailed e-mail with a list of the previous and current testing requirements — information he compiled by speaking with “multiple current and former SWAT officers.” Consistent with what the L.A. Times has reported, almost all of the even modestly demanding aspects of the old testing regime have been eliminated, including numerous obstacle courses and shooting simulation tests. Ironically, given the event that generated the recommendations, the test that evaluated whether a SWAT candidate would shoot a suspect or a hostage in a simulated raid has been eliminated. Robert said in his e-mail: “Clearly, the standards are far less challenging.”
All of this was still a secret when Assistant Chief Papa sent her March 10 e-mail to the wife of the LAPD SWAT officer. The contents of the panel’s report were first disclosed on March 16, when the L.A. Times published Robert’s op-ed.
Here’s the kicker: according to The Times‘s March 18 article, Assistant Chief Papa “oversaw the panel’s work.” It is almost impossible to imagine that she did not know the standards were being changed.
There seems to be little question that standards have been lowered — and that Assistant Chief Papa knew it.
P.S. Jack Dunphy has a piece about this in National Review Online tomorrow. I’ll let you know when it’s up.
UPDATE: I have e-mailed Assistant Chief Papa a link to this post, together with a polite inquiry as to whether she can reconcile her statements in the e-mail quoted above with the recent reporting about the lowering of standards for admittance into SWAT. I have told her that I will be happy to reproduce in full any response she might give me.