News 5 Investigates: Mobile’s SWAT vs. CBS’s “SWAT”

Mobile County

MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — You may have seen an episode or two of CBS’s hit drama “SWAT.”

News 5’s Mary Smith and Photojournalist Jason Garcia spent an entire day with Mobile’s SWAT Team, learning the difference between the television drama and real life. 

Between the gunfire, speeding cars and death on tv, it’s all pretty dramatic. But that’s not reality. 

“Many people think when you call SWAT somebody is going to die. SWAT for us in this area is more of a life-saving operation than a life taking operation,” said Chief Battiste with the Mobile Police Department.

Mobile’s “Special Weapons and Tactics” team says since 2001, it’s had three incidents where a life was taken. 

“It’s very much a chess game for us. There’s no emotion in it. That doesn’t mean we’re not human and it doesn’t affect us, but we have to turn that off and table it and focus on safely resolving what’s going on,” said Lieutenant Leland Terrell, Commander of Mobile’s SWAT Team.

There are thirteen members on the team and two open positions. Each member specializes in something from chemical weapons to different firearms. The men stay in top physical shape so they’re able to carry heavy vests and equipment for long periods of time.

A common scene on CBS’s SWAT is the team kicking down a door. That’s not the reality for Mobile’s SWAT Team. It throws a flash bang then heads inside. 

You’ll also see snipers sitting far away from their targets on TV. In reality, they’re positioned much closer yet still hidden. 

But it’s not all night and day. There are some similarities between the popular tv drama and real life. 

For example, a lot of the guns are pretty big. 

The MP5SD, used in close quarter combat, is surprisingly quiet when shot. But, you’ll want ear protection for M4 and 9 milometer handgun. 

While the guns may be exciting to shoot on a day on the range, whenever a law enforcement officer fires their weapon on the job, there’s a follow-up investigation. You won’t see one on CBS’s SWAT. Usually, there’s a ton of combat then everyone goes home. When a weapon is fired in real life, investigators will be on scene for hours taking pictures, doing paperwork and interviewing those involved along with witnesses.

“There’s no fallout after on the tv drama when somebody gets shot. There’s LOTS of fallout in the community when somebody gets shot,” said Chief Battiste. 

In all, there’s less action, death and drama in real life than on tv.

Mobile’s SWAT team is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week always ready to go.  

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