UAE Swat Challenge: The Chilean crime-fighters facing car chases and explosions head on

All-female team tell how life-or-death decisions are part of the job description as elite squads descend on Dubai

Female SWAT team makes its debut at UAE competition

Female SWAT team makes its debut at UAE competition
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The leader of an all-female special forces team, striving to make the streets of South America safer, has told how the critical fight against crime knows no gender.

The elite Chilean squad, who are going for glory in the fifth annual UAE Swat Challenge, lifted the lid on dramatic police chases, the aftermath of emergency incidents and coming to terms with tragedy as they put their lives on the line on a daily basis.

Erika Acuna, who has served with the police for 23 years, is proudly leading the Chilean charge at the global competition featuring 87 teams showcasing their skills in a series of high-octane challenges.

“Our team of eight female members was chosen from among those working in rapid intervention teams or police squads,” she said.

“We're here to achieve good results, driven by our training and the unity within our ranks.

“Both men and women in tactical teams confront the same demanding situations, with the most daunting challenge being the fear of losing a fellow officer,” she said.

Capt Acuna, said she has encountered numerous situations which have tested her resolve.

“Perhaps the most daunting incident was a massive explosion in Santiago, which virtually paralysed the entire country,” she said.

No time to waste

Tamara Sanzana, who has served in the personal protection industry for a decade, shared the remarkable story of how she took decisive action during a car chase fraught with danger.

“In a critical incident, I was forced to make a split-second decision to shoot the wheels of a car to prevent further tragedy during a chase involving a man who had gone on a rampage, running over pedestrians,” she said.

Fellow officer Magdalena Rios, the youngest team member at 27, brings her expertise from the homicide department to the challenge.

For Ms Rios, joining the police allowed her to fulfil a childhood dream.

Despite the emotional toll her work entails, she stressed the importance of remaining resilient.

“One of the most distressing incidents I've encountered was when a mother, in a state of despair after her husband decided to leave her, killed her own children,”

“We are human, yet we must neutralise our feelings to protect others effectively,” she said, underscoring the grim reality of their duties which include dealing with an increasing rate of organised crimes linked to drugs and weapons smuggling.

The crack Chilean outfit are one of five all-female teams with their sights firmly set on success.

Proving doubters wrong

The determined Thailand team are relishing the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.

“Participating in this competition offers us a unique platform to demonstrate our capabilities in a domain traditionally reserved for men,” said Pussaraporn Chaikaew, who is leading the Thai competitors.

Her team of eight members, aged between 25 and 35, hail from diverse law enforcement backgrounds, with tasks ranging from combatting terrorism to protecting VIPs.

“In Thailand, there was a notable scepticism about women's effectiveness in this field,” she said.

“This competition is our chance to challenge those doubts head-on.”

Despite the high calibre of competition, with the margin for error so small, she is confident of victory.

“All the teams here maintain a very high standard. Mistakes can happen to anyone, but it's the marked improvement and strength we've developed that counts.”

The performance of the Dubai women's team, making few mistakes, sets a high bar.

“But it also shows us that success is within reach. It's not too hard, but it's certainly not too easy.”

The UAE Swat Challenge, which began on Saturday and concludes next Wednesday, is being held at the Dubai Police training centre in Al Rawayyah, with 11 squads from the UAE taking part.

The event is organised by the Dubai Police and held under the patronage of Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

Updated: February 06, 2024, 8:23 AM