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."