UAE Swat Challenge: Death and danger loom large for Chilean crime-fighters

The elite Black Wolf squad are only too aware of the perils of facing up to organised crime

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When Chilean crime-fighter Cristiano Jimenez found a stray bullet lodged in his helmet after a showdown with an armed gang, it was just another day on the job.

He and his team had no time to ponder as they set about capturing their targets and making the streets of Santiago a little safer for another day.

Their job, of course, is like no other. Mr Jimenez heads up the elite Black Wolf squad that hunts down some of South America's most-hardened criminals.

“We repositioned ourselves and managed to arrest all eight suspects,” Mr Jimenez recalls matter-of-factly of a potential brush with death, which would have shaken most people.

This is what goes on inside the UAE's high-octane Swat challenge

All-women Emiratis SWAT team exercise during a training at Dubai Police in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 7, 2023.  REUTERS / Rula Rouhana

Mr Jimenez, 46, and his colleagues have descended on Dubai this week to sharpen their skills against the world's best in the fourth annual UAE Swat Challenge.

“What we do here in the tests is our everyday life,” he said.

Lives on the line

The Black Wolf, set up in 2009, know only too well that waging a war against crime does not come without casualties.

Only a month before travelling to the Emirates, a 40-year-old squad member was killed in the line of duty.

“He was shot dead by a gang member who committed three murders during a series of armed robberies,” said Mr Jimenez.

The officers worked day and night to track down the gunman and made an arrest within a week.

The team are on the front line each day, focusing on combating drug trafficking, armed robbery and all forms of organised crime.

“These three types of crimes are the most prevailing and we carry out between two to three missions every single day,” said the father of two.

“We carry out approximately 600 raids every year and are on call 24 hours, all week long.

“There are several moments we experience on the job that continue to live with us for the rest of our lives.

“My wife is always scared for my life every time I leave the house, although she knows we protect one another on the team.”

Horrors that linger on

Fellow officer Juan Alvarez, 39, joined the team two years after it was formed.

“I worked with the homicide department for seven years before becoming part of the Swat force,” he told The National.

“There are murders almost every day but being a father, the ones that involve children affect me the most.”

He recalls the team was called to control a riot among inmates at a prison in the Chilean capital.

“It was horrible, they started a fire that killed 88 inmates. The image of unrecognisable dead bodies is stuck in my head.”

The only woman on the force, Maureen Gonzalez, 28, spoke of how fear is part of every mission.

“But it fades away mostly because of the support of fellow officers,” she said.

“I have always wanted to be an armed forces officer but after graduating from the police college I joined the Swat team and it was intimidating at first.”

Her first mission a raid on a drug-trafficking ring.

“It was an easy task — without gunfire exchange.”

The UAE Swat Challenge is being held at Dubai Police's training centre in Al Rowaiyah until Friday.

More than 60 special task forces from around the globe compete in five tests — tactical, assault, officer rescues, tower events and obstacle courses — with a total prize fund of $170,000 on offer.

The Chechen team won the first day's hostage rescue event after completing the challenge in a record time.

Dubai Police Team B came second ahead of Sharjah Police Team A.

Updated: February 21, 2023, 3:00 AM