Wives Criticize Plan that Would Bring More Women on SWAT Team

The review report, which has not been made public and was first disclosed in March by the L.A. Times, came at a challenging time for the SWAT Team. In February, Simmons became the first member of the team to be killed in the line of duty, after officers stormed the house of a mentally ill man. Another officer was shot during the incident but survived.

When Melchior first heard that a SWAT officer had been killed, she feared the worst. "I couldn't breathe," she said. "I was drowning, I needed a lifeline. I needed to find out if it was" her husband.

She said she decided to speak out after meeting with other SWAT wives, who were also concerned that the proposed tests could endanger their families. "It is widely believed this is an attempt to be politically correct and allow a female officer on the team," she wrote in an email to senior LAPD officials.

The proposal to change the testing regimen quickly drew criticism from members of the team. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the 9,300 members of the LAPD, also attacked the changes as an example of political correctness run amok.

Daryl Gates, the former Los Angeles police chief, told ABC News that the new criteria are unnecessary and will hurt any women who are accepted onto the team. "I know women who have the strength and ability to do the job, so I don't think there are any barriers at all," he said.

"How many people are going to say well she never would have been there if they hadn't changed all the requirements? That puts a hat on her that she doesn't deserve."

Other law enforcement officials, though, say there's more to being a SWAT officer than brute upper body strength. Though some military special forces units do not allow women, other elite law enforcement agencies and fire departments do.

"It's not just about strength," said Margaret Moore, the former assistant special agent in charge at the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms special response team, which carries out search warrants in violent parts of Washington, D.C.

"It's also about intelligence and determination, motivation, analytical skills, judgment and being physically fit. That certainly is a key component, but it is not the component," she said.

"You're not lowering your standards, you're enhancing your standards by incorporating a diverse group of people," she said.

Moore said that when she joined the New York Police Department in the 1970s, the wives of officers had a reaction similar to Melchior's. "They had so many concerns that their husbands were going to be unsafe," she said. "And certainly that proved to be not true, and I say that's certainly the case in this situation."

Melchior says she has no problem with a women serving on the team — as long as she can pass the same selection process as the rest of the unit. A female police officer was recently accepted into the SWAT team's training school, which began this week. She is not guaranteed a spot as a SWAT officer.

"It's not about women against women," Melchior said. "It needs to be equal. There's a certain standard that needs to be met and we want a woman to meet that. We will be cheering her on."

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