Follow the Leader?

hoboken-follow-the-leader.jpg11/26/2007:

Would you jump off a bridge if your boss told you too?

With the recent racist allegations that have sprung up regarding the Hoboken Police Department, and investigations into their “fun” trips to Louisiana, I was a little confused as how one could blame one “commanding officer” for the actions of other grown adult men. Having never been in the military or similar “rank and file” organizations, I never knew the “power” these superior officers seem to wield.

Personally, in my career (and I disliked pretty much ALL my superiors), I would never follow bad advice from a supervisor, even if that meant me getting in trouble. While Hoboken’s recent embarrassing events can’t be compared to a battalion leader orchestrating a military attack during wartime, I guess “Mother Hen” behavior still applies even when off duty?

Richard Rivera, Spokesperson for the National Latino Peace Officers Association (NJ), had this to say:

“The history and nature of a police subculture is long and confusing.

In short, the answer is yes to whether the troops will follow the leader in jumping off the bridge. Rarely do subordinates challenge the authority of a superior officer. You have to remember, policing is a paramilitary structure where people are not “individuals” who act out of selfishness. There is a strict chain of command that must be followed. If an officer deviates not only from this chain, but from the norms and values of the group, there are serious consequences.

Such is the case in Hoboken PD right now. The five officers, who happen to be litigants are standing up against the wrongful conduct of others, including high ranking superiors. It takes a lot of courage to do so and every day citizens cannot comprehend why it’s so difficult to take such a stance. But that answer is quite simple if everyone who questions the veracity of these officers’ motives just simply stares into a mirror. Daily, our morals and integrity are challenged, and I would guess that after looking in the mirror a great many people would honestly say they did not always make the right decision. Somewhere, at some point they sold themselves short because it was expedient or convenient. For had they chosen to take the high road, they would have surely suffered the consequences.

The five police officers in Hoboken chose to take the high road. A suit was filed out of desperation and the officers’ lives are forever changed. Nobody in the police department trusts them or wants to work with them. Retaliation is inevitable and termination is a possibility. They will be blacklisted from law enforcement entirely and no amount of money can repay them for the sacrifices they are making.

Instead of people contemplating that these officers are looking to cash in, they should wonder why these highly regarded public servants cashed out when they would have benefited more by remaining silent-just going with the flow.”

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5 Comments on "Follow the Leader?"

YipYap
Member

The best I have read and from what I can see through my own observation is that Police officers belong to a close knit fraternity that expects members to conform.

New recruits learn from day one that they must back up other police officers no matter what the circumstances and after a while all officers realize they must participate in the code of silence.

If cops don’t back each other up when it comes to their shennagains (like the New Orlean’s trip) they will be scorned, shunned, excluded, condemned, harassed, and, almost invariably, cast out.

There will be a shakeup in the HPD whether it is done by Jury, Judge, Mayor, Bergin, Council, Police Chief or inevitably leaving on their own, I would not expect these cops to be on the force five years from now.

MauMau
Member
MauMau

I grew up in the Air Force, my father was an officer. It is often a misconception by civilians that intimate family life in the military is overly strict. It isn’t. We had a lot of really good times.
However, poor public behavior or illegal acts by dependants, children and spouses, reflected on, and could harm the standing and rank of the military parent. We were very conscious of this as children, even in our rebellious teen years. He had respect for his uniform, we had respect for him.

rapperd
Member
[quote comment=”55266″]Neither of you (OP and 411) have any experience or background in any Federal, PD, Fire, EMS, or Military organizations to provide any level of true perspective. (If this statement is incorrect – PLEASE correct me).[/quote] I can tell you from experience that in the military, if you are going to lodge a complaint against ANYONE, especially a senior officer, you had better have solid proof of any wrongdoing… However, that also does include giving orders that may be deemed illegal… If anyone, including officers, are found behaving or representing themselves in a way that is unbecoming of an officer, that kind of stuff is actually taken pretty seriously… Particularly if you had photographic evidence… If you lodge a complaint that is dismissed, you had better be prepared to endure some hard times, as generally it makes you a bit of a pariah… I had seen both sides of the coin, but the system in place *does* make it rather simplistic to actually file a complaint… It is just frowned upon, unless the complaint showed some form of gross negligence… In the case of the photos that have come out, that would certainly qualify… If this had been an excursion of say National Guard members, and even just on the return trip, after the mission was completed, I’d venture a guess that some serious disciplinary action would be taken if this was brought to light by anyone within the unit… Though I’m no judge in military court, but a… Read more »
astro
Member
astro

[quote comment=”55230″]Good points, 411! You can not hide behind the term “paramilitary” because the consequences are very different. Refusing an illegal order in the military may land someone in the brig and/or limit his/her liberties, but in a Hoboken civil service job one risks a transfer or a short suspension at most. The upside of refusing an illegal order in the military is pride, but here it can be grounds to a rewarding lawsuit. Not even the same ballpark.
I, for one, am not rushing to buy the complete story. The litigants don’t appear to be tongue shy and are capable of speaking their minds. One is even an articulate former public official who knows his rights and his superior’s authority.
I don’t know why they kept silent, but please, leave comparisons to military culture out of it.[/quote]

Neither of you (OP and 411) have any experience or background in any Federal, PD, Fire, EMS, or Military organizations to provide any level of true perspective. (If this statement is incorrect – PLEASE correct me).

The only way to gain this perspective is to be a member of one of the organizations as a civilian or hired employee.

Until then, it’s easy to look in from the outside and claim you understand.

While what they did by waiting was wrong or not – that’s another story, but you can’t understand the way things work without first actually doing it.

bigjones
Member
bigjones

Good points, 411! You can not hide behind the term “paramilitary” because the consequences are very different. Refusing an illegal order in the military may land someone in the brig and/or limit his/her liberties, but in a Hoboken civil service job one risks a transfer or a short suspension at most. The upside of refusing an illegal order in the military is pride, but here it can be grounds to a rewarding lawsuit. Not even the same ballpark.
I, for one, am not rushing to buy the complete story. The litigants don’t appear to be tongue shy and are capable of speaking their minds. One is even an articulate former public official who knows his rights and his superior’s authority.
I don’t know why they kept silent, but please, leave comparisons to military culture out of it.

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