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Last Updated: 2009-10-13

The City of Richmond has a population of roughly 204,000 and a Police Department with a strength varying between seven and eight hundred. Of those roughly seven hundred, the SWAT Team is staffed by 23 operators and three tactical medics. The negotiators are staffed by 11 officers.

The Richmond SWAT Team was started in 1973 by six officers who recognized the necessity for a specially trained unit to handle high risk situations which patrol officers were ill-equipped or trained to face. Through the past twenty seven years, the SWAT Team has evolved with the changing times and tactics of police work.

During the early 90s, when Richmond was one of the most dangerous cities in the country, per capita, the SWAT Team met the challenges head on. Numerous high risk arrest and search warrants were served by the SWAT team in furtherance of the investigations of multiple homicides and aggravated assaults.

The Richmond SWAT Team is a part-time team that trains between 16 and 24 hours a month. Training evolutions focus on issues which have been observed on missions or planning and preparing for issues which are facing law enforcement throughout the world. The sniper/observer section trains an additional 8 hours a month with a focus on law enforcement specific scenarios. Due to the size of the team, all members are tasked with multiple duties, whether it be as a sniper, breacher or less lethal.

Prospective candidates go through a rigorous tryout process which tests them both mentally and physically. Candidates are then put on year probation where their skills are developed to become certified team members.


Outside of our mission responsibilities, the SWAT Team is tasked with teaching the Department in a variety of specialties. Not only are we the primary instructors for TASER certification and the Patrol Rifle program, we also provide classes on tactical entries for patrol and recruits along with tactical firearms. These classes enable patrol officers to handle situations which may not rise to the level of a necessity of a SWAT team response and gives them the tools to strengthen their officer safety skills. These training opportunities have saved the life of more than one patrol officer and this type of endorsement is what the SWAT team strives for in our training.

Richmond’s Team has had the opportunity to develop working relationships of the surrounding counties of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover, along with the Tactical Units of the Virginia State Police. These joint trainings, not only strengthen our ties personally, but enable a seamless transition when an agency needs mutual aid for an operation.

Photo: Sam Perry Photography LLC

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