Disciplinary charges have been issued against an unspecified number of police officers associated with Hoboken’s now-disbanded SWAT unit, the city’s public safety director announced Thursday.
The city’s SWAT team was disbanded in November after officials learned of racy pictures taken during a trip team members made to the New Orleans area in 2006 to help Hurricane Katrina victims. The photos show the unit’s commander and other officers posing with waitresses from a Hooters restaurant in Alabama who appeared to be holding police firearms.
I’m sure there are dedicated public servants in some of the ever-multiplying number of SWAT teams around the country. But there are also far too many who enjoy the perks of uniform and power, and aren’t afraid even to abuse them on occasion.
Those who join the military are subjected to rigid discipline. Granted, it doesn’t always take hold in their personal life, either. But what concerns me is the growing number of officially sanctioned ‘paramilitary groups,’ from SWAT teams to Blackwater, that give the impression of being much more likely to run amok with the public trust than your average G.I. Joe. Too many would-be Rambos in this country have too many opportunities to don some kind of uniform, buy the latest “Joe Cool” gear from online vendors, then march around thinking (and acting like) “I am the law.”
Accountability goes a long way. I suspect Hoboken’s not the only community that could disband its SWAT team and never really miss it. If the teams keep proliferating, are they really “special” anymore–or have they become the preferred (and expedient) method for dealing with citizens? If the later, what does that say about our future?