Mason on the Hoboken SWAT debacle
2/19/2008 Press Release:
Mason calls for further investigation
…Into Hoboken Police Department’s New Orleans visit. Asks for County Prosecutor to address City Council.
Councilwoman Beth Mason said the revelation today that the city police department was dangerously short handed during the SWAT team’s controversial 2006 visit to New Orleans demonstrates the need for a special investigation to determine what if any wrongdoing was committed and what steps are being taken to punish those responsible for this embarrassing episode
Mason also said she is writing to the council president Theresa Castellano to ask the Hudson County prosecutor Edward DeFazio be invited to a council session to reveal what he has uncovered as part of his investigation into the matter. Mason said she specifically wants DeFazio to describe what he reportedly said were “administrative issues that should be addressed.” DeFazio’s comments were made to a Jersey Journal reporter on January 15 after he announced that he would not seek indictments against the Hoboken police chief or the Lt. Angelo Andriani who headed the now disbanded SWAT team.
“I find it alarming and deeply disturbing that we – as sitting council members — have to learn by reading the newspaper that the SWAT team’s adventure to New Orleans may have endangered our city residents,” said Mason, referring to today’s published report in a local newspaper.
In a letter Mason is sending to Council President Castellano, Mason notes: “I’d like to know what the prosecutor thinks are the administrative failings of the department that led to this undisciplined behavior. I think the rest of the council wants to know that as well,” said Mason
Special Prosecutor Needed?
“The city council has never been fully briefed about this shameful episode and we have no idea what steps, if any, have been taken to punish those responsible,” said Mason. “More importantly, we don’t know what administrative changes have been made to ensure that we never have a repeat of this kind of prankish, undisciplined behavior.”
Mason said if the Hudson County Prosecutor has declined to bring criminal charges and if the administration won’t report to the council on the incident, “it’s time to either go to the U.S. Attorney or to demand that a special outside investigator be appointed to look into the matter and recommend changes in the department’s structure.
“Maybe nothing criminal has occurred here. But we don’t know. The bottom line is that the public is not being protected or well served by all the secrecy around this incident,” said Mason.
“I understand there is a lot of emotion surrounding this issue. That’s why I think the best way to proceed is to bring in an outside investigator, as I recommended earlier.”
Mason, who has been thwarted by city officials in her effort to get documentation on the SWAT teams embarrassing escapades in New Orleans, praised the paper for its doggedness in pursuing police records covering the time frame of the New Orleans trip.
“I know how hard it is to get documents from the city,” said Mason. “It takes a lot of persistence and the threat or actual institution of litigation.”
Mason has asked for cell phone records and EZ Pass records from the police department covering the time period of the early 2006 incident that resulted in a bus load of Hoboken police officer making an unscheduled stop at a Hooters bar. Once there, embarrassing photos were taken of police officers with scantily clad Hooters waitresses, some brandishing assault weapons.
Mason asked for the records before she was elected to the council last May. The city claims as a private citizen she had no right to the records. The case is on appeal, along with several other open public records cases Mason has field. On Wednesday, Mason will appear before the state Supreme Court on several OPRA issues.
Mason said that even though she is now an elected official, she is still being denied access to the records she requested. “How can the city justify not turning over to elected officials records on one of the most controversial and troubling episodes in the city’s recent history,” asked Mason . “We can’t do our job as council people if the city administration is gong to stonewall us and prevent us from getting at the truth,” she added.