After several years of exhaustive research and multiple focus group meetings, CATO has volunteered to establish the first-ever certification process for Tactical Operators. There are several reasons we have elected to take on this leadership role in professional certifications. First, a professional SWAT association is better suited to instituting those standards that comprise operator role competence than formal governing authorities. The people best suited for judging competence are practitioners of their discipline, not government bureaucrats and there is an abundant number of subject matter experts in professional associations.  Second, by the very nature of their association, SWAT organizations are more interested in best practices, than minimum standards: they not only recognize competence, but insist on it. Thus, what evolves does not require governmental mandates but rather “standards by consensus,” often referred to as “industry standards.” Finally, but nearly as important, professional organizations like CATO are nearly immune from special interests. Professional standards must be independent of outside influences that may not adhere to the principal focus on public safety.  In addition to this state certification, it is anticipated that a national certification will soon be developed by the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) and the National Command & Staff College (NCSC) in collaboration with CATO and other organizations.

Overview of Process

This cohesive system of certification relies on a number of realistic, objectively measureable criteria that fall under four (4) Domains of Expertise: Knowledge, Personal Initiative, Experience, and an Online Exam. For more information certification process, as well as the criteria make up each of the Domains, see Operator Certification Process.

CATO Certification Administrative Booklet

Frequently Asked Questions

Letters of Recommendation Template





Personal Initiative

Online Exam

80 Points Required

80 Points Required

60 Points Required

80 Points Required

560 Points Required for Certification


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