FBI selects first Black woman to join a bureau SWAT team: 'She has what it takes'

ByAlaa Elassar, CNN, CNNWire
Monday, August 9, 2021
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An FBI agent in Puerto Rico is believed to be the first Black woman to be selected to train for any of the bureau's SWAT teams.

The newly chosen agent, who has only been identified as Tai, will be undergoing New Operator Training School (NOTS), a 10-week course that prepares selectees for SWAT field operations, the FBI said in a news release.

If Tai passes NOTS, she will join the San Juan Division's SWAT team as a probationary member. Within six to 18 months, she will undergo more training to become officially certified, according to the FBI.

Despite the pressure to successfully become the first Black woman on a SWAT team, Tai's head remains focused on the first challenge: passing NOTS. The course is aimed at improving an agent's firearm skills, body movement and critical thinking during stressful situations.

"I'm one of those people where I have a task at hand and I just focus on that task," she said in the release. "I don't really think about people looking at me."

"Hopefully somebody will see that I was able to do it," Tai added. "I'm not the biggest person. I'm not as strong as some of these guys. But as long as you have perseverance -- because it does get really tough -- you push through it and keep going."

Each of the FBI's 56 field offices has a SWAT team. SWAT is an acronym for Special Weapons and Tactics.

While nothing is certain yet, San Juan SWAT Senior Team Leader Mike Dubravetz "sees a lot of promise in Tai," according to the release.

"There are no guarantees for success, but she's been willing to tackle this," Dubravetz said. "I'm impressed with her performance. She wouldn't have made it through the selection process if she didn't demonstrate that she has what it takes to be successful."

Since becoming an FBI agent four years ago, Tai, 32, has been working at the FBI's field office in Puerto Rico, where her focus was "corruption cases involving non-elected officials," according to the bureau.

A soldier in the US Army Reserve, Tai said she was inspired to join the FBI after seeing the bureau's response to the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, a popular LGBTQ+ venue in Orlando, Florida. The shooting, one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, left 49 people dead and dozens injured.

"The amount of assets and the professional attitude of agents," Tai said. "They were organized, and they got stuff done."

Before joining the FBI, Tai was a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Orlando for five years. As someone who grew up surrounded by drugs and crime in a neighborhood outside Tampa, Tai has always been dedicated to doing the best for her community both in Florida and Puerto Rico, according to the FBI.

"I like to help," she said. "Even on patrol, I'd always say that jail isn't always the answer. Sometimes someone just needs to be listened to or things can be worked out. That's just part of listening and trying to help the community that I was serving."

While Tai began NOTS in May, she was deployed to Oklahoma City for a temporary duty assignment. Later this year, she will return to NOTS with a new set of selectees to complete her training.

"I'm definitely thankful for all the Black women before me in the FBI," Tai said. "Because if it didn't start with that one, who knows how many there would be today, if any. I'm definitely grateful for all of them before me."

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