FAQ

Why should I be certified?
You already know your job but who else knows? CATO is a professional organization comprised of members from the law enforcement special operations community. No one is better able to attest to your qualifications than other professionals. The names, agencies and type and level of certification will be available for anyone who doubts your standing with these other professionals.
Who can be certified?
Any sworn police officer, regular or reserve. Special exceptions may be made upon request to the CATO Board of Certification.
What is involved?
After being accepted as a candidate, you will provide proof of your competence by demonstrating proficiency in knowledge, experience and personal initiative. There is a 50 question examination that can be taken and completed at any time during the process. The CATO Board of Certification will then determine if you have met the requirements and award you a CATO Certificate of Certification, along with a lapel pin and uniform patch identifying you as a certified SWAT operator. Your name and certification status will also be added to database where anyone can check.
How much does it cost?
Nothing. CATO is paying for all candidates and will issue the first lapel pin and uniform patch at no cost to successful candidates. Candidates may purchase additional copies upon successful completion. Only successful candidates will be authorized to purchase or wear certification insignia.
How much time and effort is required?
That depends. A new or novice candidate can expect to spend as much as a year or more in completing the requirements. An experienced candidate may simply have to pass the written examination and provide the documentary evidence of successfully completing the requirements. With good record keeping, such a candidate could conceivably complete the process in a single day.
Does the certification ever expire?
Yes. The SWAT Operator Certification expires after four years from the date of issuance, after which you must get recertified to remain current. There are different criteria for recertification and there is no written examination.
Do I have to be a CATO member to apply?
No. Nor do you have to be a member to successfully complete the program and be certified.
Do I have to be a member of a tactical team?
No. In fact, the certification project is intended to prepare aspirants to be competitive during the selection process. Without prior experience, however, it will be impossible to complete the certification process until gaining the requisite experience on a tactical team.
What if I am an experienced SWAT operator with recognized expertise?
While the certification process does not allow “grandfathering,” it does allow a candidate to submit past training, experience and knowledge as part of the certification process. What this means is that all certification requirements must still be met, but will likely require less effort for those who have already accumulated the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to be deemed competent as a SWAT operator.
How is competence determined?
Competence is a level of expertise in which a person is capable of performing a specific role without further instruction or supervision. (For purposes of this project, the terms “certified,” “qualified” and “competent” will be used synonymously.) It requires demonstrative proof in three domains, knowledge, experience and personal initiative. There is also a comprehensive written examination.
What is the test like?
It is 50 questions, all of which are true/false, multiple choice and matching with a two hour time limit. There are no “fill in the blank” questions. The questions cover eleven topics related to the SWAT operator role and there is no limit on the number of times you can take the test. The number of questions for each topic varies and fits a profile developed by the CATO Board of Certification.
Everyone is not an expert the same way!
True, and certification does not require it. Each of the three domains of Experience, Knowledge and Personal Initiative have a minimum number of points that must be completed. After that, each candidate is free to choose activities that have a personal interest to achieve the necessary points necessary for certification.
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