By Ed Brock
Like some other members of Clayton County's SWAT team, team commander Capt. Tim Robinson remembers the old television series "SWAT."
Others on the team, like 30-year-old Officer Shane Ward, have no memory of the show that ran from February 1975 to April 1976. But he plans to see the new movie based on the series that opens today.
"I'm kind of looking forward to seeing how accurate it is," said Ward as he strapped on a bulletproof vest.
Ward and the other members of the "Special Weapons And Tactics" team were suiting up for a training exercise at Lovejoy High School on Wednesday.
But no movie would measure up for Ward to being the real thing.
"It's been way more than I thought it would be," Ward said. "The guys make it all. The guys you can work with and trust every day."
There are 18 members on the county's SWAT team, Robinson said, and each one has to pass rigorous training to join. It's a very physical job, so the first priority is that they be in good shape.
And they have to score 90 percent on the Georgia Double Action Course (GDAC) shooting test.
"If they don't shoot the 90 we ship them back home," Robinson said.
Then they are sent to SWAT school at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth for initial training and throughout their career they are sent out for more training at different schools so they can bring that knowledge back to the team.
"It's not so much how you are but how you work with the team," SWAT Capt. Bill Putnam said, a 22-year veteran of the team.
Working as a team is most important, 13-year SWAT veteran Lt. Johnny Robinson said.
"It's great to work close together," Robinson said. "Just knowing if you're going into a situation the team's there for you, they've got you're back."
The SWAT team is called in for incidents that require immediate action. For instance, the scenario for Wednesday's drill was an "active shooter," someone actually shooting people in the school. In a hostage situation the prevailing philosophy is to wait the hostage taker out.
"But not when someone's killing somebody," Robinson said. "Somebody's got to go in and stop them."
The drill also included instruction for student resource officers who are posted at the high school.
Clayton County's SWAT members are also regular patrol officers and are only paged when needed. Robinson said the Atlanta and DeKalb County police departments are the only ones in the metro area he knows are full-time.
"All that we do in training you can apply out on the road," Robinson said.
In fact, many other officers look to SWAT members for leadership on the road.
The 1970s television show had no role in his decision to become a police officer, said Robinson, a 22-year veteran of the Clayton County department and 20-year veteran of the SWAT unit. He doesn't plan to see the new movie that was directed by Clark Johnson and stars Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez and L.L. Cool J.
Putnam said he went to SWAT school here with the director when he was doing research for the movie. He plans to see the movie.
"It may reflect real life or it may be Hollywood razzle-dazzle," Putnam said.
One part of the movie is a "divergence from reality" even by the admission of director Johnson. Like Clayton County's SWAT team, the Los Angeles SWAT team is all male, but Rodriguez plays female SWAT member Chris Sanchez. But in the production material Johnson says he hopes the movie might "open the door."
Another fan of the old show, Johnny Robinson also plans to see the movie.
"I liked (the old show). I like the action," Robinson said. "If it came on now I'd still watch it."
The SWAT team isn't the only extreme law enforcement unit in the county. The Clayton County Sheriff's Office has a Special Enforcement Team that has a similar mission.
But they don't have a movie out yet.