The Columbia Police Special Tactics and Response Team, or STAR, was formed in 1976. STAR was formed as a result of a staff study that was commissioned after six specific incidents that resulted in the deaths of three suspects and the injuries to three police officers and two citizens. The study outlined the need for a specially trained and equipped team of officers to handle critical incidents that were beyond the realm of conventional police response.

In 2007, the STAR team changed names to the current Special Weapons and Tactics, SWAT, team. This change in name made the Columbia Police Department consistent with other police departments throughout the United States. In 2013, CPD implemented the Bearcat, a fully armored vehicle.

In September 2017, the SWAT Trainer position was civilianized and retired Lt. Scott Young returned to the department to coordinate and facilitate a variety of SWAT trainings annually.