Melbourne SWAT Trailblazer Inspires Through Competition, Work
A job is a passion when an individual has the drive for it, both on and off the clock, and Melbourne Police SWAT team member Jay Hazelett lives that truth each day.
Hazelett, a 21-year veteran on the Melbourne Police Department force and the first female member of the department’s SWAT team, finished second in the intermediate division at the Tactical Games in Barnwell, S.C. in September. The event took place at a decommissioned nuclear processing facility.
The Tactical Games, which hosts several challenges around the country each year, features athletes who are generally in law enforcement, the military or rescue services who possess skills to aid in civil protection or rescue services. Shooting, running and other tasks are common during the two-day event — though athletes do not know their exact challenges until it starts.
“Each time it’s a different challenge and that’s what I like about it,” Hazelett said. “You don’t know what you’re getting into and that mirrors real-life situations.”
The Tactical Games are open to all athletes and not limited to law enforcement, but Hazelett treats it like she handles each day on the job.
“You have to be accountable for every shot you make. When I do this (competition), I treat it like this may be the shot and it’s preparing me for that,” Hazelett said.
Hazelett first heard about the Tactical Games while competing two years ago in the SWAT Round-Up International competition that takes place yearly in Orlando. The SWAT Round-Up is similar to the Tactical Games as the challenges involve different aspects of situations that SWAT teams could experience in their daily jobs.
Hazelett’s law enforcement career began in 2000 with Melbourne PD after she earned her Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice at Brevard Community College. She graduated from Merritt Island High School in 1996.
In 2010, Hazelett was promoted to detective, and in 2014 earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. Leo University.
When Hazelett set her sights on joining the Melbourne PD SWAT team three years ago, she knew she had to prepare herself for it.
Hazelett was an athlete in high school, playing basketball for the Mustangs, but she admits that she hadn’t been doing much physical training when her SWAT team aspirations really took shape. So, she added CrossFit and other weight training to her routine to prepare. And it worked.
“I want to be very competent in the skills that I use for work,” Hazelett said. “In training the way I do, I feel confident in myself and in my job.”
Hazelett says that her success in the competitions would not be possible without encouragement at home from her wife, Cheryl, and two teenage children.
"My wife supports me and she is an inspiration to me,” Hazelett said. “The fact that she manages to maintain her schedule along with supporting me, no matter what crazy schemes I've got going on.”
That support extends beyond simply cheering at Hazelett’s events; it also includes working around an ambitious training schedule that often includes two workouts a day. Most mornings Hazelett will do cardio work, which can include running on the beach while wearing a weight pack, to simulate her job and competitions.
Evenings are spent weightlifting or going to CrossFit classes, and weekends include early workouts so she can have the rest of the day with her family.
Hazelett is always looking for ways to incorporate additional training in her everyday life. She says it is not unusual for neighbors to see her mowing the lawn with a weighted pack on her back.
Her dedication to fitness and law enforcement has rubbed off on her children, too. Her son ran track this season at his middle school and her daughter is active in ROTC. It takes a whole family unit supporting each other for it to work, Hazelett says.
“If you don’t have that, you can’t pull this off.”
Beyond her family, Hazelett has heard from others in the community that her participation in these competitions is introducing other women to the sport.
“It’s amazing that I could inspire women to get into the sport and encourage them,” Hazelett said.
She knows her job already requires her to live under a spotlight, and competing can also serve as motivation to girls who are thinking about careers in law enforcement.
“We’re getting more progressive as far as females in the industry and that includes shooting sports, CrossFit sports and law enforcement,” Hazelett said. “We’re breaking glass ceilings all over the place.”
There have been other unexpected parts of her journey, Hazelett says, such as sponsors embracing her story and wanting her involved with their brands.
"I didn't even know what to do after I got them,” Hazelett said on recently landing two sponsors. “But if it helps me to go play more and reach more ladies, then heck yeah.”
She’s also built an engaged following on Instagram, at her profile @Huntress343. Combining her career and tactical sports has been an organic process, Hazelett says, with each improving her skills on the other.
“All the competitions I do are to be stronger for my team and to be stronger for my community and to be better at my job.”