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Blue Civil War
Black Lives Matter vs. Police Unions

Public sector unions are under scrutiny—this time not from conservatives, but from a leftwing activist group. Connor Friedersdorf reports in the Atlantic on an effort by an affiliate of the Black Lives Matter movement to repeal portions of police labor contracts that could unfairly shield officers from being punished for wrongdoing:

Campaign Zero has announced [an effort] to clarify its call for “fair police union contracts.” Its activists researched union-negotiated labor agreements in many jurisdictions and flagged the most damaging provisions. Their efforts are important. These legalistic clauses do tremendous damage to American cities.

Last year in “How Police Unions and Arbitrators Keep Abusive Cops on the Street,” I referenced specific cases to show that “too many cops who needlessly kill people, use excessive force, or otherwise abuse their authority are getting reprieves.”

Police officers have one of the most difficult and under-appreciated jobs in the country, and it could well be that that many of the contract provisions Campaign Zero has highlighted are in fact necessary and appropriate. At the same time, we agree with Glenn Reynolds that today’s public sector unions “are essentially a conspiracy against taxpayers” that have brought pension crises to blue cities from coast to coast and have hampered efforts to improve the quality of public services.

Public sector employees, like their counterparts in the private sector, must be able to be swiftly dismissed if they are found responsible for wrongdoing. But as Daniel DiSalvo wrote in these pages, “police unions have negotiated extensive procedures that shield workers accused of misconduct from disciplinary action.” This type of arrangement, along with other special privileges for public employees, must be undone, and Black Lives Matter is performing a valuable service by calling attention to it, even if one believes the movement has sometimes exaggerated the scale of police abuse.

It will be interesting to watch the conflict between the black left and police unions unfold. It could be that Democratic politicians will be able to take on police unions without alienating their broader coalition of public sector employees. But this seems like a hard needle to thread. Police unions, along with other organized public sector unions, are an integral part of the urban blue model edifice. Renegotiating their contracts when it comes to hiring and firing could lead to demands for rethinking things like teacher tenure, as well. The blue civil war continues apace.

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  • mdmusterstone

    Police work isn’t pretty as portrait on TV: Some harsh language, a little running,
    “winging them” in the shoulder, and then a meek surrender for
    cuffing, no cursing, no officer taking some level of a physical beating. If only.

    Officers meet the badest of the bad daily who don’t submit
    as they are lawfully required to do. They have to be wrestled into submission before they can be cuffed. How dangerous is this wrestling match? In 2013 some 8% of officers killed were slain with their own gun by unarmed assailants.

    When it is declared that you are under arrest there isn’t a
    coin toss to see who gets to throw the first punch, it is going to be carried
    out in the most expeditious and physically overwhelming way possible not just
    for the officers safety but for the public also.

    Sigh, I had concluded it was a waste to post here but here I am! With the exception of WRM of course
    you people write as if you have no real life experience at all.

  • mdmusterstone

    It occurred to me on the way to the gym that I did not
    provide my basic outlook for my previous post.

    I agree that all public unions have gone too far but that’s
    another discussion.

    In all of the following systems you have to assume the
    integrity of the individuals involved and have a system that weeds out those
    without same.

    The point I want to make is that many professions are in
    fact art forms. Teaching is an art form
    in that the instructor is attuned to who in the class needs what, when and how
    much. If you’re satisfied with micromanagement
    than you can take someone off the street, train them for two weeks to say,
    “Ok, class open your books to page 21 and then fill out the questions on
    page 30 on the electronic answer sheet.”

    Medicine is an art form in that, to a large extent, the
    diagnosis is the key, after that, largely, some form of the PDR and the Merck
    Handbook or web pages will tell you what to “do”. That’s
    why nurse practitioners are gaining acceptance, clearing the obvious, passing
    on the problematical.

    And so police work. Some
    many years ago psychologists did a study part of which was interviewing police and
    one stood out. Officer on patrol encounter
    a perp who pointed gun at him, officer had his weapon pointed also but neither
    fired!? When the officer was asked why
    he said he knew they guy wasn’t going to shoot, he didn’t know how but he
    knew. That was the art,
    “knowing” who and what. From this
    DVDs were developed that teach you to read micro facial expressions when a
    person is lying, telling the truth… etc.,. imagine what that could mean on a
    date, in a marriage, to a manager, an employee.
    I’ve always been going to run the DVDs down but never have… Ok, stop me
    before I digress again.

    Most crime is stopped proactively, after the fact is a much
    poorer investment for a society. The
    more you micromanage your police, the less proactively, and the greater price
    you will pay in crime. It’s a difficult
    balance between police state and just about anything goes. To me it’s evolved too much toward the former
    but when you start tweaking the rules it has to be done by those with the
    highest integrity possible or we’ll all be sorry.

  • Pete

    “Public sector employees, like their counterparts in the private sector, must be able to be swiftly dismissed if they are found responsible for wrongdoing.”

    They should be fired for incompetence, too. Here, I think of the public school ‘teachers.’

  • Andrew Allison
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