From military-style tactics to top secret operations in dangerous environments, these special police forces are among the best in the world at protecting citizens and maintaining order.
In this post, we’ll discuss 11 of the most highly-trained special police forces from around the globe, exploring their histories and what makes them stand out from other security forces.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about some of humanity’s bravest protectors, read on!
1: GSG 9 (Germany)
During the Munich Olympics of 1972, 11 Israelis were murdered in a terrorist attack that would later become known as “The Munich Massacre”.
In response to this unspeakable crime and Germany’s lack of readiness, GSG 9 was founded – a special counter-terrorism unit dedicated to ensuring that nothing like that would ever happen again.
The GSG 9 is trained to respond quickly and effectively to situations ranging from hostage rescue to counter-terrorism operations.
Operatives are highly trained in the field of hand-to-hand combat, counterterrorism tactics, and firearms/explosives expertise. They have access to some of the most advanced weapons – from assault rifles to sniper rifles or even helicopters at their disposal.
The GSG 9 has seen its share of successes over the years, most notably during Feuerzauber (Operation Fire Magic) in 1977 when they successfully rescued 86 passengers being held hostage on a hijacked Lufthansa plane and in 1988 for their part in catching the perpetrators responsible for a major bank heist in Gladbeck, West Germany.
Not only have they taken part in a multitude of raids and operations against potential terrorists all over Europe, but they also provide other police forces with comprehensive training on counterterrorism tactics.
To join the prestigious GSG 9 unit, officers must have two years of service and pass a demanding medical and psychological assessment. This selection process consists of an arduous sixteen-week basic training followed by nine weeks of specialized classes that require applicants to demonstrate their commitment.
Only a small percentage (1-2%) of applicants succeed in making it through the program.
2: Junglas (Colombia)
Have you heard of the Junglas?
The Junglas is an elite special operations unit of the Colombian National Police. The unit was established in 1982 with the goal of combating drug trafficking, terrorism, and other organized crime in the country.
Their primary mission is to protect Colombian citizens from threats posed by armed militant groups and cartels operating within Colombia’s borders. These courageous individuals venture into Colombia’s dense jungles, where they square off against cocaine smugglers and lay siege to FARC bases.
The Junglas undergo a rigorous training and selection process. To qualify for the unit, candidates must pass an extensive background check, physical fitness tests, psychological evaluations, and technical aptitude assessments.
Those who make it through the initial application process are then put through a series of specialized courses, including counter-terrorism tactics, urban patrolling methods, hostage rescue operations, jungle survival techniques, and close-quarter combat.
The Junglas are equipped with a wide range of weapons, including machine guns, rifles, handguns, explosives, and knives. The unit also has access to specialized equipment, including night vision goggles, body armor, and communication devices.
From working to put an end to drug trafficking and guerrilla warfare to dismantling criminal empires and liberating hostages from captivity – their heroic exploits are well-known throughout Latin America (maybe even the world).
3: BOPE (Brazil)
The Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais (BOPE) is the most esteemed law enforcement in Rio, Brazil’s stunning yet often tumultuous coastal city. BOPE is officially regarded as an urban warfare force responsible for conducting police operations in the sprawling favelas – where hardcore gangs and drug crime run rampant.
Despite their many successful missions, BOPE has received heavy criticism for allegedly carrying out extrajudicial killings of suspects and other offenses.
There’s no mistaking the powerful message behind BOPE’s all-black uniforms, masks, and the skull and patches with crossed pistols. And with a training song that starts with “Man in black, what is your mission? To invade the favela and leave the bodies on the ground,” it’s clear that they’re not messing around.
The BOPA officers’ other duties include handling prison riots and fighting on the front lines during times of war.
The fail rate of the BOPA program is high. It’s been reported that out of 100 applicants, only three make the cut.
During the final three days of training, participants stay alert and go without sustenance while running simulated missions. The culminating test requires them to ascend a steep hill to their HQ as they engage in MMA-style combat.
4: The Yamam (Israel)
Following the tragic Ma’alot massacre of 1974 in which 21 children were killed, the Israeli Border Police’s Yamam unit was formed. Intended to help prevent any similar crisis from arising again and provide an effective response should it occur, this special police force quickly gained a reputation as a highly-skilled counterterrorism outfit.
As expected, they are well-armed; however, one of their favorite tools is an armored bulldozer with which they can quickly demolish structures suspected of housing terrorists.
The Yamam has demonstrated its might and prowess by taking home the gold twice in America’s Urban Shield competition, a tournament that tests all special forces.
Yamam’s operations remain shrouded in secrecy. However, we know that its 200 officers must undergo a rigorous training program.
Israel is renowned for its superior security standards, leading to these stringent procedures being enforced.
To be eligible for the Yamam, applicants must have served in the military for at least three years and possess an outstanding service record.
Some Yamam candidates even come from elite special forces units. Their training period lasts six months and culminates in a “hell week” that’s one of the most grueling training experiences in the world.
5: Special Task Force (Sri Lanka)
The Sri Lankan Police’s Special Task Force (STF) is a highly respected counter-insurgency unit that has taken the lead in dealing with Tamil Tiger separatism. It also provides combat training and security service worldwide.
Back in 1983, a Sri Lankan Olympian founded this unit and their training initially consisted of knowledge obtained from the nation’s armed forces.
To further enhance their preparedness, experts from Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) and officers from Israel’s Shin Beth intelligence agency also provided invaluable input.
Although the STF has proven itself as a formidable special forces unit, their agressive military tactics often come under scrutiny.
In fact, for years there have been accusations of unlawful executions and kidnappings without due process.
Besides guns, the STF has access to an impressive array of weaponry, such as mortars, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, and even armored personnel carriers.
6: Royal Mounted Police (Canada)
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), also known as “the Mounties”, is one of the most iconic law enforcement agencies in Canada. Established in 1873, the organization has become synonymous with safety, security, and justice.
As a federal police force, the RCMP’s duties include protecting federal property, ensuring the safety of national leaders, and enforcing federal laws.
The RCMP has a rigorous training program that recruits must pass before becoming Mounties. Applicants must go through physical strength tests to ensure they can perform the duties of an officer, including high-speed pursuits, combat training, and first aid.
Additionally, applicants must pass extensive background checks and psychological assessments to ensure they are suitable for the job.
In terms of equipment, Mounties carry firearms such as Glock 17s and Sig Sauer P226 pistols, along with various non-lethal weapons like stun guns, batons, and pepper spray.
On average, only 10-15% of applicants make it through the training program and become RCMP officers. Those who do are proud to serve their country, upholding justice and protecting the people of Canada.
Today, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police continue to be a symbol of law and order across Canada, proudly protecting and serving their country.
The comprehensive training program is far from a walk in the park – candidates must be ready to endure marching as early as 6:15 AM, jogging between classes, vigorous sparring rounds, push-ups, and a four-mile run before lunchtime.
On top of that, expect to take on nine long flights of stairs by noon!
7: Police Nationale RAID (France)
Affectionately nicknamed “the Black Panthers” for their distinctive black uniforms, the RAID was established in 1985 to combat violent criminals and terrorists.
This elite squad of only 60 members is on duty when foreign dignitaries arrive in Paris – ensuring that important visitors can safely enjoy their stay.
The selection process for Nationale Police officers is completely voluntary. However, only the fittest and most experienced candidates with a minimum of five years on the force are chosen.
Of those 600 applicants, an average of 10 will successfully make it through to join this elite squad.
For nine months, trainees undergo six hours of grueling daily physical training.
Martial arts, tactics, and sharpshooting become second nature to the RAID as they learn how to board planes, trains, and buses; rescue hostages; perform attacks from helicopters; outdrive their opponents with reckless abandon, and even parachute!
Once they have mastered the basics, many proceed to elite military units to further hone their skills.
8. Grupo Especial de Operaciones (Spain)
As a collaborative effort between the Spanish government and law enforcement, the Grupo Especial de Operaciones (GEOs) has been at the forefront of counter-terrorism operations since their establishment in 1977.
Joining the GEO is no mean feat – 97% of applicants are denied entry each year. To be eligible, you must have served as a police officer for two years and demonstrate proficiency in martial arts, scuba diving, marksmanship, or explosives.
9. US Marshals (United States)
The U.S. Marshals Service is a highly sought-after branch of American law enforcement, and has been a constant force for justice since its founding in 1789.
With their unwavering dedication, these brave individuals act as guardians of the federal court system and beyond, keeping our courts safe from any external threats while hunting down wanted criminals.
If you have dreams of becoming a U.S. Marshal, the competition is fierce. Those who are accepted must undergo intense training to live up to the high standards of this organization.
To be considered, an applicant must possess either a four-year degree or equivalent work experience as a law enforcement professional.
Before beginning their training, applicants must pass an exam and a rigorous interview board evaluation. They will then need to undergo full vetting processes, medical exams, drug tests, and complete a physically demanding test.
Only 5% of all applicants make it through training, which lasts 19 weeks and is considered one of the toughest programs in the U.S.
10. SWAT (United States)
A SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team is a highly trained law enforcement unit designed for special operations. They are typically tasked with managing large-scale and high-risk events, such as hostage situations, riots, or active shooters.
The Los Angeles Police Department formed the first official SWAT team in 1967 in the aftermath of the Watts Riots.
Since then, numerous police departments across the United States have established their own SWAT teams to address high-risk situations.
The training requirements of a SWAT team are rigorous and require specialized skills such as marksmanship, tactical driving, hostage negotiation, breaching techniques, and urban assault operations.
Members must also pass physical fitness tests, psychological evaluations, and firearms tests.
To complete the grueling demands of SWAT training, true dedication is essential. Only 10-15% of those undertaking this endeavor prevail.
It requires tremendous physical and mental strength to come out on top. But in the end, those who deserve the badge earn it!
SWAT teams have accomplished several impressive feats, including arresting the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.
They have also responded to terrorist attacks in Paris and London, helped stop an active shooter at a shopping mall in Oregon, and successfully diffused a hostage situation at an elementary school in Connecticut.
SWAT’s specialized training allows them to keep order even in moments of chaos, making them an invaluable asset during times of crisis.
11. EKO Cobra (Austria)
Austria’s EKO Cobra is an elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit that reports directly to the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
The EKO Cobra force was inspired by the Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando Bad Vöslau, a security force originally established by the regional police in Lower Austria to protect Eastern European Jews from potential terrorist attacks during their passage through Austria en route to Israel.
EKO Cobra was officially founded in 1978 in response to the 1972 terrorist attacks during the Munich Olympics.
It was initially established as a rapid response team to handle hostage situations and barricaded suspects but has since evolved to become the country’s premier counter-terrorism and special operations unit.
The unit is renowned for its rigorous training regimen, which requires recruits to undergo extensive physical and psychological conditioning.
Candidates must pass a series of tests measuring strength, endurance, marksmanship, and tactical knowledge before their induction into the unit.
The EKO Cobra arsenal includes a wide variety of weapons ranging from machine guns and submachine guns to precision-targeting rifles and specialty equipment such as gas masks and rappelling ropes.
The unit is also outfitted with a range of specialized vehicles, including armored personnel carriers and helicopters.
The EKO Cobra has achieved numerous operational successes throughout its history, including successfully thwarting an attempt to hijack Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-154 mid-flight and the 1996 liberation of hostages from Graz-Karlau Prison.
In addition, the unit has routinely conducted joint operations with other international counter-terrorism units around the world.
Due to its rigorous selection process and high standards, hundreds of hopefuls aim to join the esteemed Eko Cobra brotherhood. Unfortunately, only 20 make it through.
Those who do make it must demonstrate exceptional mental and physical strength, tactical knowledge, and a commitment to uphold the values of the unit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do military police have special forces?
Special Reaction Teams, or SRTs, are advanced military units composed of highly-trained and experienced personnel. They frequently work in situations where force might be necessary to bring about a resolution or prevent an altercation from escalating into violence.
Is SWAT a special force?
SWAT teams are considered special forces due to their specialized training and expertise. Their primary focus is on tactical operations, such as critical counterterrorism, hostage rescue, or barricaded suspects. They are capable of responding to incidents quickly and effectively and are equipped with more advanced weaponry than police officers typically possess.
Is SRT the same as SWAT?
SRT (Special Response Teams) and SWAT (Special Weapons & Tactics Teams) are generally considered to be the same thing. However, they are not exactly interchangeable terms. SRT is often designated as the official name of a department’s response unit while SWAT is seen as more of an informal acronym to describe a team performing similar tasks.
How long is SRT training?
SRT basic training is 15 days long.