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unions versus the public
Blue Civil War Meets Thin Blue Line

One highly-publicized and worthwhile endeavor of the Black Lives Matter movement has been to draw attention to the way police union contracts sometimes go too far in shielding misbehaving officers from disciplinary sanctions. But that’s not the only way strong police unions can negotiate a system of rules that put the interests of their members ahead of the interests of the public: As the Marshall Project reports, Chicago’s police unions have seen to it that the least experienced officers are asked to patrol the toughest neighborhoods in the Windy City:

[T]he deadliest jurisdiction is patrolled by the least experienced officers. Seasoned and better-connected officers tend to work the safer neighborhoods on the North, Northwest and Southwest sides. This is the result of an unusual “bidding” system negotiated by the police union in 1980, which allows officers to use their seniority to claim shifts with better hours or in low-crime neighborhoods.

Of course, it makes sense that unions would want to protect the interests of their most seasoned officers, who have climbed the ladder and paid their dues—just as it makes sense that teachers’ unions zealously guard the job security of the longest-serving teachers. But in the end, cops and teachers—and firefighters and welfare administrators—are public servants, and their work must ultimately be about securing the well-being of the people they serve. All too often, well-endowed public sector unions can tip the balance too far in the opposite direction, prioritizing the privileges of well-connected union members over the needs of the public that pays their salaries. As the Marshall Project piece suggests, the union-negotiated deal the concentrates inexperienced officers in high-crime areas makes Chicagoans—especially poor Chicagoans—worse off overall.

Powerful public employee unions are a defining feature of the blue model governance system that Democrats are determined to protect. But as we’ve written before, “the most serious grievances that many Democratic voters feel are about the inadequacy of the services these employees provide: dysfunctional schools, unaccountable law enforcement, abusive prison guards, or inefficient welfare bureaucracies.” In many cases, advancing the interests of low-income Democratic voters depends on rolling back the influence of self-interested unions over urban governance. Neither party has been able to address this problem forthrightly thus far—Republicans are inclined to protect police unions, while Democrats protect teachers’ unions and bureaucrats—but the blue civil war is not going away anytime soon.

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  • Pete

    Is this a black-white issue in you mind, Mr. mead?

  • Kevin

    A more market based solution of paying higher wages to police in less popular shifts/districts (and less to those on the popular shifts or district) could work well – but unions understandably want to secure this benefit for their more senior members. Teachers’ unions, etc. do the same thing.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Interesting proposal (utterly unworkable in the current political environment, but still….), thank you for sharing it

  • Andrew Allison

    Who’s the victim here, the inexperienced cop working a dangerous precinct, or the residents of the precinct? The is probably both.

    • f1b0nacc1

      The inexperienced cop has no choice (though that could be fixed easily enough), and the residents are living on the plantations that have kept them poor and ignorant. Next question?

      • Andrew Allison

        How ’bout answering the first one [grin] As an aside, I think you’re on to something with the plantations thing. There are some interesting parallels between the big city welfare ghettos and the plantations of old. The residents of the former are as enslaved by the state as the latter.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Of course both are the victims, but is that even relevant? The cop supports and sustains a union that exploits him for the benefit of the more senior members while the residents support a parasitic political class that farms their votes while ignoring their needs. Both are victims, and both are enablers.

          • Andrew Allison

            It’s relevant in the sense that it was a comment on a post which suggested that the only victims were the residents. Since I feel duty-bound to try and find something with which to disagree [grin]. might I suggest that the rookie cop, who’s required to be a member of a union in the policies of which he has no voice, doesn’t have a choice.

      • This ‘plantation’ business is something serious people should avoid. No one is scouring the country for escapees from the ‘hood merely to drag them back there. Cash and counselling are not the hallmarks of American slavery or any other. Those who cash the checks of the welfare state may suffer thereby but they are not victims. They are voracious scavengers who will always and promptly breed to the limits of their resources.

        • f1b0nacc1

          I beg to differ. Those that escape the plantation, i.e. those that learn about self-reliance, hard work, dedication to improving themselves as opposed to mindless entitlement and blaming ‘the man’ for their problems, are labeled as ‘sell-outs’, referred to as ‘acting white’, and rejected by their communities and their so-called benefactors on the Left.

    • John Stephens

      The inexperienced cop knows that after he’s paid his dues in the combat zone, he’ll have acquired enough seniority to transfer to a safer assignment.

      • Kristian Holvoet

        Sure,, with lots of bad habits. This isn’t helping the gentry areas either. This is a key reason why the ‘culture’ remains broken. The poor areas get ‘Lord of the Flies’ policing, as immature/inexperienced officers work together, but then they take that learned culture with them to the burbs and the other side of the tracks.

    • Ah, your second question is deterministic as, if they did not support the union these guys would not be cops. That’s the ‘closed shop’ and the even more pernicious public employees union. These together convert an institution for the protection of the public to one for the enrichment of the unions by way of the cops’ paychecks and pensions. Funny thing though, the pensions are insolvent as they also are institutions conceived for the enrichment of the union. Screw the cops and the populations they police. Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out! They are going to anyhow.

  • bottomfish

    Why not devise a metric for “quality and quantity of work output” and make assignments on that basis? Oh, what a naive proposal.

  • emersonushc13

    Widout da unions yuze wood all be woikin’ 7 days a week, 24 hours a day! Don’t mention da long history wit da mob!

    • Actually due to the unions’ actions during the auto bailouts I have not worked for seven years.

  • ejochs

    You are incorrect about these staffing issues. In fact, officer counts are down drastically in Chicago in districts traditionally noted as lower crime ie. white and taxpaying neighborhoods. Those districts, in turn, have had increases in crime. In addition, manpower numbers are down by thousands.

  • ejochs

    This is reality. The simple fact is that all citizens in Chicago have an entitlement to police protection. You seem to think it appropriate to empty districts to send police to the south and west sides, where they aren’t wanted.

  • Reigning in the unions is not going to fly while the members of said unions are the star earners in their demographic; said demographic being the one clamoring for improvements. Collapse is the answer and luckily, what with the pensions dissolving and all, is coming presently.

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