50 Years of SWAT: Jim Horn

Jim Horn joined the FBI in 1970 as a special agent and retired in 1996. A Silver Star recipient for his heroic service during the Vietnam War as a Marine Corps officer, Horn was a member of one of the Bureau’s original SWAT teams in 1973. He was assigned to the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy from 1983 to 1994, where he was a violent crime profiler. He was also a program manager of the Bureau’s Critical Incident Program.

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Big police departments had SWAT programs because they felt like they needed more equipment, more expertise, guys who had special skills and experiences.

And we saw that in Denver, too. And we had two states. We got reservations. Um, so there was a fair amount. Organized crime. You had everything in Denver. It’s very interesting.

But when Wounded Knee went down in ‘72, we went up there, I would say, ragtag. We had to borrow equipment. We had to borrow weapons, because we were, you know, we were separating, an illegal group who came over and took over Wounded Knee from Chief [Richard] Wilson, the real chief there, who wanted to take his men and go in and clean them out. It was going to, they were going to go in and problem would be over. A lot of people hurt or killed.

But we were the buffer in between. And we were there for months. And it just wasn't very professional. And those of us who had a background of combat in Vietnam and police work in tough places were uncomfortable with that. And we told them we were uncomfortable with it. And we needed to be better at responding to things like that. And it wasn't that much longer–it  was so obvious—that it wasn't that much longer that they said, we're going to have a SWAT program.

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