The Ithaca Police Department S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) Team was formed in 1998 as a direct result of the tragic death of Investigator Michael Padula, on November 17th,1996. The Ithaca Police Department leadership realized the need for a specially equipped and trained unit that could handle incidents that went above and beyond the capability of patrol officers.
The SWAT team has gone through many changes throughout its inception and is currently a multi-jurisdictional team with the Tompkins County Sheriff Office. The team is authorized for 20 part time members, 15 from Ithaca Police and 5 from the Tompkins County Sheriff Office. Currently 17 of the 20 positions are filled. SWAT members serve on a part time, voluntary basis and most are Patrol Officers and Investigators in their full time assignment.
Selection to the Ithaca SWAT team is made through a series of testing. Candidates must pass a physical fitness test, a task oriented obstacle course, firearms proficiency test and an oral interview process. Upon appointment to the SWAT team, members are then on a 1 year probation period, where they are taught the basic tactics needed for SWAT and are sent to a state certified 4 week SWAT Operator Course.
All SWAT members must continue to stay physically fit to stay active members on the team. Semi-annual physical fitness testing is conducted on all members. The physical testing includes both strength testing (bench press, sit-ups, push-ups, 300 meter sprint, vertical jump and 1.5 mile run) as well as a task based obstacle course. Members must also pass quarterly firearms testing with assigned weapon systems.
Another important aspect of SWAT is our collaboration and teamwork with the Ithaca Police Critical Negotiations Team, usually referred to as CNT. CNT is a multi-jurisdictional team that has specially trained members that focus on communication, negotiation and de-escalation of a situations. Both teams have the same goal in mind, to prevent injuries and save lives.
In 2016 Ithaca Police SWAT Team received New York State SWAT Team Certification. This was a very proud moment in the team history, as this certification standards are extensive. Certification standards take a close look at operating policies to include team structure/supervision, operator selection/staffing, mandatory initial training, yearly in-service training, fitness standards, direct & accessible team capabilities, deployment procedures, tactical planning, operations and debriefing, to name a few. At the time of original certification Ithaca SWAT was the 8th team in New York State to get certified. Ithaca Police SWAT has maintained our certification since 2016 through a series of annual compliance reviews.
The Ithaca Police Department SWAT team’s motto is “Deficere Non Licet” (Failure is not an Option). This motto is always kept in the minds of our members while we maintain the highest standards and commitment to being prepared and providing the best service to our community when called upon to assist with a high risk incident.