By Elizabeth Hur
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An Eyewitness News Exclusive – The women of Philadelphia’s SWAT team.
It’s been dominated by men for years but now, two women have made the cut and showed Elizabeth Hur what it takes to be a member of the elite squad.
“SWAT” is short for Special Weapons And Tactics. The team is known for its intense, specialized training.
Formed 50 years ago this month, the Philadelphia SWAT team has traditionally been a man’s world. During that time, only three women served on the squad. But that is changing with two women recently joining the ranks.
Capt. Winton Singletary said, “I’m getting used to having them here, and the guys are getting used to having them here. A lot of the guys here have never worked with a female.”
Officer Jasmine Andujar added, “When I first got here, I didn’t know that I was going to be the first female in a long time.”
Andujar is one of the new officers and says SWAT leaders warned her, it might be tough.
“So when I did my interview they said, ‘Are you comfortable with this? Do you think you can handle this?’ I said absolutely. I’m doing it,” Andujar recalled.
That meant handling the same training, among other things, Andujar and the second woman – J’Nean Caserta – had to pass a test on the firing range, learn how to master up to eight weapons and drag a 200 pound dummy 100 yards to simulate the rescue of another officer.
J’Nean Caserta explained, “Looking at it is very deceiving. But once you actually pick him up and start to drag, it’s like oh my God!”
But the 47-year-old grandmother made it look easy. How easy is it? I gave it a try and despite my best efforts, I needed a lot of help to move the dummy. Firing a sub-machine gun was no picnic either.
Off the range, officers also have to hit the “SWAT” gym.
Both Andujar and Caserta work out every day. All the while, being ready for the unexpected.
“One day you could be here, working out and the next minute they say we have a barricade and we’re all suiting up and going out there,” Andujar explained.
A call came when we were there. The team was sent to serve a high risk warrant. The two women with their team, successfully took an armed robbery suspect into custody.
Through it all, the women are expected to do anything the men do.
“It’s not like we can shuffle them around and pick plum assignments for them. They have to do what the guys do,” Singletary said.
And so far, the men have treated the women as equals.
“They’re wonderful. They would come to me and say do you need anything? There’s a lot of big burly guys but Jas and I- we can hold our own,” Caserta said.
Male or female, they say SWAT officers are a special breed.
“I mean you have to be, I wanna say, built for it,” Andujar explained.
While setting an example for other women, they call it their honor to serve on the SWAT team.
Andujar said, “I plan on staying here and retiring from here.”
Caserta added, “I’m not going anywhere. This was the best decision I made in my career.”