Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jersey Cops and 'Bama Hooters

A story broke today of the disbandment of the Hoboken, New Jersey SWAT team after a controversial incident.

Apparently the officers of the unit stopped by a Hooters restaurant in order to enjoy some of those great wings. Someone snapped some racy photos of the cops posing with the Hooters girls. So what, right? Boys will be boys, after all.

Problem is, the boys in these photos were in SWAT garb, had gone to the location in their fully-equiped SWAT van, and let the girls play and pose with their equipment. Pun fully intended.

The actual incident happened about two years ago. The SWAT team had gone on a road trip to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and stopped by the restaurant in Alabama while on their travels.

As you can see by viewing the photos available through some of the links supplied here, the Southern Belles seemed more than happy to meet these Yankee heroes.

The story was broken earlier this week by a local investigative news reporter, and Hoboken responded by naming a new Public Safety Director who was formerly the Chief of the Hoboken Fire Department.


After being sworn in on Friday, the Director immediately disbanded the unit. He also called home the unit's head, a Lieutenant who had been away on vacation.

At his sit-down with the Director, the LT is reported to have claimed that the unit was off-duty at the time of the Hooters visit and photos, and that all of the weapons shown were privately owned. He claims that no city time or equipment was used in relation to the incident, and that the photos were going to be used as part of a calendar.

Of course this really isn't the point, even if it is true, which strains credulity. A number of issues come into question here, but perhaps the most important is the integrity and intelligence of the unit members and it's command.

Posing with scantily clad women while in your gear and traveling in your work van, and allowing those women to handle high-powered weapons is juvenile at least, dangerous at worst. Allowing yourselves to be photographed while doing so is just plain dumb.

Great looking young women handling high-powered weaponry in photos is nothing new. Cops and soldiers, and many others like both their guns and beautiful women. The combination of the two in photography has gone on forever.

But when a police unit is traveling representing their department and their community as a whole, this type of activity cannot take place. The leadership of the unit should be ensuring that it doesn't take place, rather than participating in it themselves.

Want to make a calendar with Hooters gals? Be unquestionably off-duty, wear generic police garb without any reference to your community, and have documentation that the weapons were personally owned.

Here is to hoping that none of the guys represented in the photos is married, because that is going to open up an entirely different can of worms for those fellas and their families.

Innocent men's road trip stuff? Perhaps. But try selling that to a wife who was left home handling the house and kids while you were away. I can tell you right now "that dog won't hunt".

I am not trying to play the prude here, having been around the block myself a time or two now, and having experienced similar events over the course of my own police career.

However, there is no legitimate argument that this is anything but a bad decision on the part of the cops involved. Every police officer at any level in any jurisdiction needs to really think about the intelligence of participating in anything like this during their career.

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