Militarization of Police

Texas SWAT Cops Face Scrutiny For Drinking on the Job

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Seven members of Austin PD's SWAT team are under review for drinking on the job after one of them crashed his unmarked car, Austin's KVUE reports

Michael Hamilton was allegedly at a party drinking with his fellow SWAT team members on December 3, 2010. APD says Hamilton left the party, got behind the wheel of his unmarked patrol car, and crashed on his way home. He hit a curb, flipped over, and landed in a ditch on Convict Hill Road in Southwest Austin.

Other officers responded to the crash and arrested Hamilton on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

The seven officers are now in a fight to keep their jobs. They are taking turns in front of a disciplinary review panel which includes the president of the Austin Police Association. 

It is unclear whether the officers will be allowed to keep their jobs on the SWAT team. The department will not talk about the review or what may come of it until the reviews are complete. Those familiar with the review say Hamilton faces an indefinite suspension while the other SWAT officers could get temporary suspensions.

KVUE notes that this is the second time Hamilton has crashed his car in the last six months. The first time was in December 2010, when Hamilton was also drunk and also on call. The Austin American-Statesman reported at that time that

Assistant Police Chief David Carter, the department's chief of staff and a former SWAT team lieutenant, said Hamilton's crash has forced the department to evaluate the unit's stress level and job requirements.

While not excusing the actions of any officer, Carter said, police leaders have already decided that team members need a more routine break from the "hypervigilance" that he said police grapple with when they can be summoned to a life-threatening emergency anywhere, anytime.

Officials said that can cause officers to always live in an unhealthy, heightened state of readiness.

"It puts a tremendous burden on them," Carter said. "There is no downtime. Those are clearly unhealthy behaviors, something we are obligated to change."

At the time, the president of the Austin Police Union declared, "In the long run, a good SWAT team will be even better." 

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  1. Texas SWAT Cops Face Scrutiny For Drinking on the Job

    Blood?

  2. A police officer driving while drunk? Two times is once too many. I wonder if his indefinite suspension involves pay checks. I bet it does.

    1. If by “involves paychecks” you mean “he continues to recieve them” then yes, I bet you are right.

      1. If by “continues to receive them” you mean he will likely get a raise and an increase in his pension, I wouldn’t be surprised.

        1. And compensated for all of the overtime he is missing.

          Unions.
          Good for cops and good for Teachers.

          For taxpayers?
          Not so much.

    2. As a cop’s kid, let’s just say it happens more than you would like. I’m trying to figure out why the other SWAT officers are going to lose their jobs though, assuming they weren’t on duty during the party. Were all of them rung up for DUI?

      1. After RTFA, yep, they were on call and therefore, on duty. This seems to be an easy call: fire ’em.

  3. Who knew Austin was a war zone? What’s the body count?

    1. They know the addresses of a few pot smokers and some middle-age illegal music downloaders…..these are the prospective targets in the war on pot and internet abuse.

  4. Well at least they arrested him.

    Is there a trend here? It seems that when cops drive drunk, falsify reports, commit perjury, steal, etc it is “unhealthy behavior.” If any of us peons do so, it is called a crime.

  5. Hamilton’s crash has forced the department to evaluate the unit’s stress level and job requirements.

    That’s exactly what I was thinking.

    I’m sure any regular garden-variety civilian, upside down in the ditch, drunk, would get a kindly pat on the back and a reassuring, “Don’t worry about it Kid; it wuz teh STRESS.”

    1. The stress of continually fighting to save your job in light of your own screw-ups is very high.

    2. This guy is actually right, though. That job and the expectations to be in a heightened state of readiness is too much for any civilian to take.

      With that said, the solution is to take away the “on-call” status these guys are frequently on. Of course, with the removal of that status also goes the removal of on-call pay as well.

      I would be willing to bet the citizenry would be thrilled to go back to the days before our police cars were outfitted with battering rams and solid tires. Before the days when departments requisitioned APC’s because they “have a right to go home every night.” And before the days when a flak jacket was standard issue to a fucking meter maid in Visalia, California…because there are so many shootouts in the central valley over a parking ticket.

      These pigs have created virtually all of the stress that comes from their job, both for them and for the citizens they come in contact with. If it’s too much, they should fucking resign and find another job commensurate with their skill set and level of education…bouncer or grill jockey.

      1. Fuck You!

        1. I agree!
          Sloopy, bouncers make decisions on saftey of their charges and use their judgment to maximize access and reduce risk. They don’t just wantonly beat the shit out of people.

          And grill Jockies exhibit a high level of hand-eye coordination when flipping the scalding hot meat patties, when was the last time a Grill Jockey fired a patty into a customer and their dog died?

          YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR SIR!

      2. I suspect most cops would be well qualified to pick up cans on the side of the road or muck out stables.

  6. Somebody’s going to have to go to MADD HQ and clean the brains off the wall.

  7. People who say “grapple with” need to eat my shit.

    1. Joyce (Royce, depending on your spelling) Gracie wants to see you.

  8. While not excusing the actions of any officer, Carter said, police leaders have already decided that team members need a more routine break from the “hypervigilance” that he said police grapple with when they can be summoned to a life-threatening emergency anywhere, anytime.

    Officials said that can cause officers to always live in an unhealthy, heightened state of readiness.

    God damn pigs are such pussies. It is like they face IED’s, Ak-47’s, and snipers every day.

    1. You have to love the irony though. He was likely using that extra break time he earned the division for getting tossed and driving drunk by getting even more tossed and flipping his unmarked cruiser.

      Fucking hell, news is nothing but irony. Next thing you know I’m gonna hear about some socialist who stays in $3,000/night hotels and rapes the proletariet help….

      1. Fucking hell, news is nothing but irony. Next thing you know I’m gonna hear about some socialist who stays in $3,000/night hotels and rapes the proletariet help….

        [spit-take]

        1. It would be even more fantastical and far-fetched if that socialist were arrested while sitting in first class on an international flight…

          1. The Air Marshall was only able to identify him by searching for the man repeatedly fondling stewardesses and trying to stick three fingers up their skirts….

            oh, who am I kidding, it was a flight to France, there were probably tons of men doing the same thing.

      2. and just got out on bail. I wonder what the over/under is on him beating feet?

        1. Holy shit! This guy’s like the biggest flight risk since Roman Polanski. I can’t believe they let him go, but I’m kinda glad that due process still happens on occasion.

          1. the “paid” is implied.

            Its amazing how easy it is to purchase justice when you stay in swanky $3,000/night hotels.

        2. He got bail?! The woman who burned up 5 kids in Houston and fled to Nigeria thinks DSK is a flight risk. Yeah, I know, innocent until proven guilty, bail is only meant to guarantee the suspect’s appearance at trial, yadda yadda. Does the Manhattan D.A. have a guarantee from France that they’ll extradite him when he runs there?

      3. ” “I couldn’t get a ticket [to the inauguration] with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. . . . We had to watch the thing in the hotel.” Let me get this straight–the tenured, Princeton professor who collects five figures for public lectures was relegated to a hotel television while an anonymous hotel worker got tickets to the inauguration! What kind of crazy, mixed up class politics are these?”

  9. In keeping with my streak of off-topic posts today, I proudly present you with the following:

    http://gizmodo.com/5803629/cra…..ickup-boom

  10. The seven officers are now in a fight to keep their jobs.

    At first I thought that referred to the responding officers who actually arrested the drunk cop. I can’t imagine how I would make a mistake like that…

    1. Same here. It happens so often, it’s now the position I assume police are taking by default.

  11. If American Servicemen can wait a year or more to drink, cops can wait until the end of their goddamn shifts.

    1. To be fair, the servicemember probably gets R&R anywhere between 2 and 10 months in their tour. So it might not be a full year between drinks.

  12. And for some reason, I don’t think an ER nurse, an ER physician, an EMT, a search and rescue canine unit, or a fireman would get a second chance.

    1. Don’t you mean a third chance?

      1. I stand corrected Sloopster.

  13. “Officials said that SWAT teams can cause officers dogs to always live in an unhealthy, heightened state of readiness.”

  14. “when they can be summoned to a life-threatening emergency anywhere, anytime.”

    then shouldn’t there be a no alcohol policy?

  15. Won’t someone think of the SWAT team police?!!?!

  16. Convict Hill Road

    That is kind of funny.

    1. That certainly made me lol.

  17. Those familiar with the review say Hamilton faces an indefinite suspension while the other SWAT officers could get temporary suspensions.

    Gee, I wonder if that’s a paid suspension.

  18. “”At the time, the president of the Austin Police Union declared, “In the long run, a good SWAT team will be even better.” “”

    What kind of SWAT team does he think he has now?

    1. Ah, it didn’t come across the way I wanted it too. Now he knows it’s a bad SWAT team but I’m sure he was praising those very same guys before the crash.

  19. That job and the expectations to be in a heightened state of readiness

    More like, “constantly striving to justify your existence by grossly inflating the level of risk to which you are routinely exposed”.

    1. Well they are not the Department of Homeland Security. 😉

  20. I wonder how many times a year Austin is victimized by marauding gangs of hostage-taking bank robbers armed with automatic weapons.

    1. Well the fact that it’s not proves that having the SWAT team is working, now doesn’t it.

      1. Lisa, I would like to buy your rock.

      2. You sound like a guy with a working elephant repelling device!

  21. The first time was in December 2010, when Hamilton was also drunk and also on call.

    Wasn’t December the time of the most recent incident with the first being a few months prior to that? Editing quibbles aside, I love how the cops manage to turn a drunk driving incident into a labor conditions issue. From the way they present it you’d think the guy was out getting completely schnockered with his buddies when he suddenly got a call about a hostage situation at a school for special needs orphans and heroically sprang into action.

    1. He was just on his way home when he got a call about a drunk driver.

  22. The thorough review of job requirements will no doubt determine expecting SWATters to have a valid driver’s license (or demonstrable competence in the operation of a motor vehicle) is an unjustifiably onerous burden which does not conform to current public policy goals of municipal employee collective bargaining agreements.

    1. …and do so without being under the influnce is just beyond the pale. Oh the humanity.

  23. Currently, Marine Survives Two Tours in Iraq, SWAT Kills Him by Tim Cavanaugh, is featured in the “spotlight” section of Google News.

    Excellent.

    Read it and weep, America.

    1. Oh yeah, this story is also part of my outrage fatigue of the last couple of weeks. It is just been too fucking hard to keep up.

  24. While not excusing the actions of any officer, Carter said, police leaders have already decided that team members need a more routine break from the “hypervigilance” that he said police grapple with when they can be summoned to a life-threatening emergency anywhere, anytime.

    Officials said that can cause officers to always live in an unhealthy, heightened state of readiness.

    Shooting dogs and beating the shit out of old men is hard!

  25. While not excusing the actions of any officer, Carter said, police leaders have already decided that team members need a more routine break from the “hypervigilance” that he said police grapple with when they can be summoned to a life-threatening emergency anywhere, anytime.
    Officials said that can cause officers to always live in an unhealthy, heightened state of readiness.

    I used to pull on-call shifts where I’d have to go out in the middle of the night, alone, unarmed, without backup, to meet a battered spouse fleeing from her situation and guide her to the shelter. I would go from normal to “hypervigilant” between the time I got the call and the time I started my car. If the cops are staying in “an unhealthy, heightened state of readiness” between SWAT calls, they’re doing it wrong.

    Street cops have a much more valid claim.

  26. The whole hypervigilance claim is just another example of how the cops want to be soldiers. They hear about the state of hypervigilence that contributes to the combat stress for deployed troops, and think it applies to them. It would be a valid comparison only if they were on duty 24 hours a day for a year at a time, during which there were surrounded by many people actively trying to kill them; and even when they weren’t actually on a call they had people sporadically launching mortars into their bedrooms and dining rooms.

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