It takes a certain kind of person to willingly expose themselves to CS gas and tread water for 45 minutes while fully clothed and carrying heavy equipment. That’s the kind of person who applies for one of the few slots on the Longueuil police force’s SWAT team and few of them make the cut.

Recently, CTV Montreal was invited to watch a day of grueling tryouts at Farnham Military Base. The day before, eight Longueuil police officers dropped out.

“Let’s put it this way, it’s a hell of a day they went through yesterday,” said police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Voutsinos.

Among the exercises candidates must go through is an obstacle course involving hurdles, a climb, jumping through windows, navigating a drainage pipe and getting through a trench. The exercise also sees the hopefuls putting on gas masks, grabbing a shield and drawing their weapon and dragging a weighted dummy, all while being timed and wearing a 45-lb vest.

Another exercise has them in a pool for 45 minutes, but not for a leisurely swim. 

"Some of them swallow a lot of water, they have to carry heavy eqiupment in the pool," said Voutsinos. "They're fully clothed with boots on. We really see if the candidate has what it takes."

“It’s to determine mental strength, team work, perseverance,” said SWAT team member Eric Audet.  

The candidates go through their paces on little sleep – they are kept awake for 22 hours of each day of the tryouts. The goal is to get a feel for how they will react in high-pressure, high-stakes situations. SWAT, which stands for Special Weapons And Tactics, is called in for the most dire scenarios, often involving armed individuals, where split-second decisions can be the difference between life and death.

“The reaction to any scenario is an instinct, so either they have it or they don’t,” said Voutsinos.

Most don’t pass – only four made it through the final cuts this year, an unusually high number. Those four will attend a five-week training course, only one of whom will graduate to become a SWAT team member. The other three will be put on a five-year waiting list.

“A lot of them won’t succeed, but I’m very proud that they tried,” said Longueuil’s chief inspector of police operations   Denis Caouette.