A woman in Puerto Rico has shattered one of the biggest remaining glass ceilings in law enforcement.
CNN’s Alaa Elassar reported that a Black female agent from Tampa, Florida but working primarily within the U.S. Island territory of 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,” Elassar reported, citing an FBI press release issued to celebrate the occasion.
Should Tai pass NOTS, she would join San Juan’s FBI SWAT team as a probationary member, becoming a full member after six to 18 months of additional training and certification.
“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,” Elassar said. “The course is aimed at improving an agent’s firearm skills, body movement and critical thinking during stressful situations.”
In the FBI release, Tal said, “I’m one of those people where I have a task at hand, and I just focus on that task. I don’t really think about people looking at me.”
“Hopefully, somebody will see that I was able to do it,” she 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.”
The FBI has 56 different field offices located around the globe, and each has its own SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team.
While she is still undergoing training, San Juan SWAT Senior Team Leader Mike Dubravetz told FBI spokespeople he “sees a lot of promise in Tai.”
“There are no guarantees for success, but she’s been willing to tackle this,” he 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.”
Tai joined the FBI four years ago as a special agent following her time as a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve. She was also previously a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando for five years.
According to Elassar, “she was inspired to join the FBI after seeing the bureau’s response to the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub” and wanted to serve in the FBI to help fight “corruption cases involving non-elected officials.”
“I like to help. 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,” Tai said.
“I’m definitely thankful for all the Black women before me in the FBI,” she added. “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.”