50 years of SWAT: Brian Jerome

Brian Jerome joined the FBI in 1979 as a special agent in the Miami Field Office and spent his 32-year career there as a case agent and SWAT operator for 30 years before retiring in 2011.

Video Transcript

Understanding the bureau's SWAT team, it was a collateral duty. And that being a collateral duty, my understanding is today they get more time to practice. We were lucky to get one or two days a month to practice. I mean, and you're looking at skills that are perishable skills shooting CQB (close-quarters combat). And then then you add to that you had to have the capability of using gas. As time went on, we had to be able to do biochemical, which necessitated, you know, suiting up, making sure that you were properly attired and that attire was properly … basically installed on you correctly, because now you're dealing with toxic or chemicals and viruses that could kill you.

So, you know, as time went on, we started to get a little bit more time to practice. But in the beginning you were relegated to one or to two days. And, you know, the Bureau—it says Federal Bureau of Investigation. It didn't say Federal Bureau of SWAT. Okay? So, you know, management as a whole was like, yeah, we want to have a SWAT team, but hey, you got cases to do. And so it was a collateral duty. And, you know, you did the best you could.

I mean, look, there were some supervisors that accepted it. Some supervisors like mine originally did not. I mean, when I started and I got on the SWAT team, my one supervisor goes, no, none of this stuff. And I would get dressed up in my SWAT gear and I'd be in the squad area and he'd see me and I'd come back to the office and sure enough, I’d get 10 new cases. Took me about twice to figure out SWAT uniform-new cases. Got it. So the next time I would come to the office, suit and tie, I got to go out, go out. I’d change in the car, put on my SWAT stuff, go to the go to SWAT training, come back, get in the car, put on my suit and tie, get back in the office. Guess what? No new cases. I was a fast learner.

When I eventually became team leader and SWAT team team leader, I was looking for qualities. Number-one, you wanted somebody who was going to be physically fit. I mean, because a lot of times you were asked to do things above and beyond what a regular agent would have to do. So you would have to go, hey, look, we're going to have to walk a mile to get into this farmhouse. Okay, it doesn't seem like a lot. But you would have all this gear. You’ve got to have somebody who is physically capable. So I was looking at physical capabilities.

I was looking at somebody who I could evaluate and say, can this person be trained? Do they have the mental capability of me showing them something and understanding what I've showed him and why and why it's to be done, and can they repeat that by themselves. Are they trainable? So you need somebody who's trainable and then you need somebody who said, look, I'm willing to fight with the guy next to me. And I don't care who he or she is. That I know that I got their back and he's got my back.

So I was looking for initiative. I was looking for somebody who took pride in what they did because, you know, you wanted somebody who cared. You know, you didn't want somebody who just showed up. You wanted somebody who understood that you were part of a whole. You were a spoke in a wheel, and the wheel was only as strong as all the spokes working together. So I felt as though people had to have that dedication, integrity to follow through, and willingness to follow orders, but to also be able to say, look, I think that's wrong and this is why. I mean, it's one thing to follow orders and tell you, but it's another thing to sit there and go, I want you to do this, this and this and somebody go, wait a second, that either didn't make sense or why am I doing that? So that they eventually got to the point where they could analyze the situation themselves and go, I got that plan. I understand what we're doing and I'm a part of the team. So you wanted a team player, all-around team player.

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