Police unions are a public enemy

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/05/police-unions-are-a-public-ene.html


Man, is that an LMG? and are those two soldiers guarding a check point in Iraq really cops in Chicago or someplace just like it?

edit: *Sniper rifle/Marksman’s carbine


Living in NYC, I always think the PBA = bullies protecting bullies.

And the good officers know that too.


The New York Times say it’s time for legislators to rip up these agreements and force the rule of law on those who represent it.

The American Citizens say [also] it’s time for legislators to rip up these agreements and force the rule of law on those who represent it.


The recent scandal involving the Corrections Union President is a window into the whole game. No cop or guard has EVER done wrong, and they’ll fight to the death to prove it.

One of the worst things they do is fight residency requirements. We get cops in the city who live down the Jersey Shore, and have no connections to the community. I’ve literally heard cops say about crime “what do you expect, living here?”


Wouldn’t it be interesting if the police department were named as a co-conspirator to cover up a felony (e.g. murder?)

RICO seems like a tempting tool, doesn’t it?


This is one of those things I feel like a court should already have nullified. All it should take is for someone to sue a city for making such an agreement and the court should rule that these agreements violate the 14th amendment rights of non-police suspects because it treats police better and thus everyone else not as equals under the law. The appeals process could take it higher so that the SCOTUS could rule on it and make it binding on everyone. Unfortunately, SCOTUS has made some very police friendly rulings of late, so you can’t count on that.


Of course this will be turned into a general anti-union sentiment in no time. . .


The problem isn’t unions, the problem is the way people put police above the law. Or possibly how the police get the benefit of the doubt and due process, while everyone else* is railroaded to keep conviction numbers up.

I hear the same arguments against teachers unions from the right. That the union protects bad members and allows criminals to keep their job further endangering the public. I hear it when people complain that the local union is ‘greedy’ for fighting to maintain benefits and wages the way they used to be. It’s either ironic or subversive to post such an article on Labor Day.

The police unions are doing what all unions try to do, protect and represent their membership. The problem is that the police have power over people that other workers don’t. Not that they have a union.

The police need to change, we need more accountability and better protection from the police and corrections officers. We need laws that keep the police in line and judges that are protecting the rights of the accused. But we can’t praise unions for the advances they’ve made for all workers out one side of our mouth and on the other side say “Except for police unions, they are mere hives of scum and villainy.”

*NB some people are railroaded more often then others. While no one gets due process like a cop, the poor and people of color get the worst of it. YMMV.


The photo’s filename says it is from Ferguson.

I think that’s Ferguson, Missouri and not Ferguson, Iraq, but to hear some of the reporting you might think otherwise…


It looks like SWAT, which can have identical gear to the military, more or less, including full autos. Depends on the district.


This is a scary oppopportunity to end up with rules that allow the state to tear up contracts with ANY public employee.

To any sensible person, contract provisions regarding discipline for maiming and killing are categorically different from provisions governing reciept of pension contributions, but not necessarily in the eyes of the law. If I were corporacrat, I’d be salivating at the opportunity to make another chunk of the middle class disappear…


The problem with unions is that they don’t usually pick and chose who they support when members get in trouble. Their job - protect the union member. What usually happens is when said member does something wrong, they don’t back away from them, they continue to fight for them.

So, on the surface, Unions are good. The original reason for them was both negotiating wages, but also preventing arbitrary layoffs or firings. You can’t fire Bob because he likes Star Trek more than Star Wars, for an example. There are many cases of unions sticking up for someone who didn’t really do anything wrong. Or made a minor infraction and deserve a second chance.

The problem is, it is rarer to see a Union back down from supporting a member when they sure as hell should be fired. This is how some teacher unions have garnered criticism. My ex had a sexual predator at her work and it took years to get him fired, partly due to union protection.

But at the same time, Unions can’t really back down or they risk losing their power and their members. Now for egregious issues, clear cut issues, we can look down on them and say “shame on unions”. But for everyone of those there are probably dozens of grey areas where it isn’t clear if the union should or shouldn’t support the worker. So their default is to support them. Why? Because if you don’t back Trek Loving Bob, then will they back me when I am discriminated against my views that Boba Fett is the best Star Wars character? They will be seen as weaker both by members and by those on the outside.

So I think that is the reasoning for why unions are inclined to protect their own no matter what. Yes I am sure you can find examples countering that stance, but we can clearly find examples supporting it. And unlike a job at stay the Post Office or Ford, a screw up by a Police Union member may result in a loss of life, vs lost mail or a car not put together right.


The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association is currently suing the city because the mayor forced 100 random officers wear body cams in a pilot project after none volunteered to wear them. It makes me wonder what would have happened to any officers who had volunteered to wear them.


Police unions should be charged with corruption of justice.


It’s not RICO. It’s never RICO.


I think there’s an important difference between (1) a union and (2) a union for an armed force with police powers.


Specifically, regular unions (to my knowledge) don’t have the power to force a municipality to accept violations of criminal justice laws and policies. Most union negotiations are about money and job security and practices, not criminal justice.


This is a cultural issue rather than anything inherent with unions. Unions I’ve been part of have certainly supported members accused of all manner of things (that’s part of their job) but have been very choosy about when to throw the whole weight of the membership behind an issue/individual and when not to.

In most cases, this is because if someone is abusive, or useless, their colleagues end up having to carry them. And people would rather not.

If unfairly treated, sure - up to and including threats of all-out strike action. But when the discipline is reasonable, the member will be getting professional (if not sympathetic) advice, a colleague making sure any grievance or disciplinary hearing is conducted fairly, and that’s about it. Unions really do vary.


Police unions have a sort of unique problem. Or unique expression of typical union problems. The unions often stone wall and protest every possible action against officers, whether its a good officer in need of protection or a bad officer who should only be getting the required legal representation, in exactly the same way. They vocally back bad policing methods and policy that don’t work, make cop’s jobs harder and more dangerous, and create the kind of indefensible situations we now find ourselves. Do shit like this, which is such an astounding, offensive, violation of the basic idea of what it means to be police that I can’t figure out how they aren’t being ripped apart by their own officers for even suggesting it. All while ignoring or facilitating corrupt administrations that screw over good officers. Negotiating to cut pay and benefits to young officers in exchange for a better deal for the soon to retire, or Union associated cronies.

And the Unions do all this because its a really easy way to campaign for those union elections. By rights if the Unions really wanted to be protecting and supporting officers they should be getting dangerous problem officers off the force or out of contact with people. Pushing back against policing policies that don’t work. Pushing for reform. Opposing political corruption, often embedded in departments. But that’s all hard (and requires union officers to not be part of said corruption). And it doesn’t look as good on a newspaper as “Union head yells!” Just look at NYC. In recent memory pretty much no NYC PBA president has ever agreed with any statement, policy change, public response to scandal, or anything else any NYC mayor has ever under taken. Instead they histrionicly attack it through the papers. Because that looks good come union elections.

So our police unions, like many of our departments are badly in need of reform. But that doesn’t mean they need to be eliminated. Unions are critical. They gave us things like weekends and livable paychecks. And public sector unions, including Police unions are one of the strongest remaining pieces of the labor movement. I’m incredibly suspicious of any criticism of unions that jumps straight over the idea of fixing it directly to one of doing away with unions. It tends to be more a part of the long standing assault on unions in this country then it is about actual reform of any sort. See also the anti-union disposition deeply embedded in education reform. And for all the problems embedded in them, the issues tend to be an out growth of the same corruption and cronyism sitting in local governments, police departments, and DA’s offices. You’re not going to fix any of that by nuking PBAs in a way that weakens unions overall. And if you could find a way to drive serious reform, the unions could be a critical tool in fighting that same corruption elsewhere.