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“Increasingly Rightwing” Police Unions Have Made Policing More Dangerous In America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2020

BuzzFeed’s Melissa Segura writes that the political ideologies of police unions moved further to the right in response to calls for reform from the Obama administration and groups like Black Lives Matter, resulting in increasing violence and a lack of accountability & consequences for police.

Like in Minneapolis, police unions across the country have bucked reforms meant to promote transparency and racial equity in law enforcement. Many of these unions have pushed collective bargaining agreements that make it all but impossible for departments to punish, much less fire, officers. These agreements defang civilian review boards and police internal affairs departments, and they even prevent police chiefs from providing meaningful oversight, according to community activists and civil rights lawyers. Meanwhile, the unions have set up legal slush funds to defend officers sued for misconduct.

I mean, this stuff is just cartoonishly maddening:

More than a year before a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned George Floyd to the ground in a knee chokehold, Mayor Jacob Frey banned “warrior” training for the city’s police force.

Private trainers across the country host seminars, frequently at taxpayer expense, teaching “killology” and pushing the notion that if officers aren’t willing to “snuff out a life” then they should “consider another line of work.” Frey explained that this type of training — which has accompanied the increasing militarization of the police over the last few decades — undermined the community-based policing he wanted the city to adopt after a string of high-profile killings in the region.

But then the police union stepped in.

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis worked out a deal with a company to offer warrior training. For free. For as long as Frey was mayor.

See also James Surowiecki’s 2016 New Yorker piece, Why Are Police Unions Blocking Reform?

For the past fifty years, police unions have done their best to block policing reforms of all kinds. In the seventies, they opposed officers’ having to wear name tags. More recently, they’ve opposed the use of body cameras and have protested proposals to document racial profiling and to track excessive-force complaints. They have lobbied to keep disciplinary histories sealed. If a doctor commits malpractice, it’s a matter of public record, but, in much of the country, a police officer’s use of excessive force is not. Across the nation, unions have led the battle to limit the power of civilian-review boards, generally by arguing that civilians are in no position to judge the split-second decisions that police officers make. Earlier this year, Newark created a civilian-review board that was acclaimed as a model of oversight. The city’s police union immediately announced that it would sue to shut it down.

(via @torrHL)

Update: I forgot to include this thread from Minneapolis City Council member Steve Fletcher about how difficult it has been to enact policing reforms in the city.

I want to be clear: I am about as pro-union as a person can be. The Police Federation should not be thought of as a union. They do not affiliate with the AFL-CIO. They don’t walk picket lines in solidarity. How do I know? Because I do and I’ve never seen them on a line. Not once.

Instead, they distort hard-earned labor laws to defend indefensible behaviors. The City recently lost an arbitration after Chief Arradondo fired a cop for beating someone while in handcuffs. Kroll, on behalf of rank and file MPD, pressed the case and won that officer’s job back.

And then he calls the police department a “protection racket”:

Politicians who cross the MPD find slowdowns in their wards. After the first time I cut money from the proposed police budget, I had an uptick in calls taking forever to get a response, and MPD officers telling business owners to call their councilman about why it took so long.

We pay dearly for public safety: $195 million a year plus extensive, expensive legal settlements. That should buy us more than a protection racket that’ll take it out on our constituents if we try to create accountability.

(via @alopexfoxy)