More on Four SWAT Teams in Trouble

Unfortunately, the ones caught in the middle of most controversies are the good guys, the hard-working police officers who only want to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

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Last week's SWAT column, "Four SWAT Teams in Trouble," described the controversies surrounding SWAT teams from LAPD, Chicago PD, Hoboken (N.J.) PD, and Eureka (Calif.) PD. Four very different agencies, with very different circumstances. But all the SWAT teams' situations resulted in outcomes none of the teams needed nor wanted.

Predictably, last week's column generated a number of reader responses—which I hoped would happen. At least one reader took me to task about Eureka PD and its SWAT team, expressing righteous indignation and "setting the record straight." Something I fully appreciate and agree with. If I misstated anything or misled anyone, it was purely unintended, and I stand corrected.

What I wrote in last week's column came from published news reports and stories, which are what the general public forms their opinions from. Most of us in law enforcement realize that not everything is reported in the news, especially things privy only to those with the "need to know," and that ultimately, the truth will prevail.

All four SWAT teams and their respective agencies have been embroiled in some degree of controversy over these reported incidents. Those who have ever been embroiled in accusations or controversies during their careers fully understand and empathize with these officers. The adage "There, but for the grace of God, go I" rings true for all of us.

Like so many other officers, I've also been on the receiving end of accusations and controversies. Ultimately, we prevailed, but only after long, tough, determined battles. What it boils down to is something Ron McCarthy, a retired LAPD SWAT sergeant, constantly preaches: "Always do the right thing." To which I would add: "Always act in good faith"—and get yourself competent legal representation to defend you.

Here are the latest updates I know of regarding all four SWAT team controversies. Nothing new to report regarding Chicago PD SWAT or Hoboken PD SWAT. Both situations appear to have settled down, at least for the time being. I hope the officers in both departments can now concentrate on the job, without distraction.

Eureka (Calif.) PD's latest news was last week's city council meeting to discuss the renewal of the new EPD police chief's contract. Council members heard the "pro" side from members of the community, and the "con" side from a number of EPD officers.

The LAPD SWAT controversy took a recent, unexpected, and unprecedented turn. I'm referring to the April 3, 2008 LA Times Op/Ed commentary co-written by Capt. Jeffrey Greer (commander of the LAPD Metropolitan Division) and Lt. Mike Albanese (commander of the LAPD SWAT Unit).

Their co-written Op/Ed piece is a rarity, as most in active law enforcement shun going public with their views. It would appear that in the case of LAPD, the current controversy over SWAT standards has reached the point where public explanation is deemed necessary.

The controversy stems from the recent, yet to be released, LAPD SWAT Board of Inquiry report, and some of the recommendations for change cited within the report. The anticipation is once the report is finally formally released, there will be a new wave of controversy over its findings.

But for now, the controversy surrounding LAPD SWAT continues to swirl. Following the Op/Ed piece in the LA Times, several LAPD SWAT wives appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" to voice their continuing concerns about the changes underway within LAPD SWAT.

What's unprecedented, and somewhat disturbing, is these—and other—controversies are being played out in public. A complete contrast to the old days when most controversies were kept in house, and resolved internally. But that was then, and this is now—and things today are very different.

Unfortunately, the ones caught in the middle of most controversies are the good guys, the hard-working police officers who only want to do their jobs to the best of their ability. The last thing any officer wants, or needs, is to get caught up in controversy (their own or others'). At best, it's a distraction from doing the job well. At worst the distraction has the potential to get someone hurt—or worse.

I am fully confident the preceding agencies' teams will not only survive, but will ultimately prevail, and eventually move upward and onward and continue to serve and protect the public to the best of their ability.

I, for one, am a believer in SWAT, and more importantly, a believer in the strength and resilience of the officers who honor the law enforcement profession. And I wish the officers of LAPD, Chicago, Hoboken, and Eureka ultimate victory over their current challenges.

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SWAT Sergeant (Ret.)
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