The legislation was promoted within the context of fears over the Civil Rights Movement, race riots, the Black Panther Party, and the emerging War on Drugs.
One officer then obtained permission to observe the Delano Police Department's special weapons and tactics units in action, and afterwards, he took what he had learned back to Los Angeles, where his knowledge was used and expanded on to form the LAPD's own first SWAT unit.
John Nelson was the officer who conceived the idea to form a specially trained and equipped unit in the LAPD, intended to respond to and manage critical situations involving shootings while minimizing police casualties.
Other countries have developed their own paramilitary police units (PPUs) which are also described as or comparable to SWAT forces.
SWAT units are often equipped with specialized firearms including submachine guns, assault rifles, breaching shotguns, sniper rifles, riot control agents, and stun grenades.
In the United States as of 2005, SWAT teams were deployed 50,000 times every year, almost 80% of the time to serve search warrants, most often for narcotics.
SWAT teams are increasingly equipped with military-type hardware and trained to deploy against threats of terrorism, for crowd control, hostage taking, and in situations beyond the capabilities of ordinary law enforcement, sometimes deemed "high-risk".
Television news stations and print media carried live and delayed reportage of these events across the United States.
Personnel from the LAPD, having seen these broadcasts, contacted Delano and inquired about the program.
Inspector Gates approved this idea, and he formed a small select group of volunteer officers.
This first SWAT unit initially consisted of fifteen teams of four men each, making a total staff of sixty.