Opinion: Democrat Governance and Police Unions

AP Photo/Steve Helber

The following just might sound somewhat familiar to most of you; The first step in the Problem Solving Process is—to Identify the Problem! If you listen to the leftist press (I know, redundant) you could easily decide that “systemic racism” (whatever that is) is responsible for the death of George Floyd and the solution is to dissolve police departments, remove statues of Confederate Generals and take down the portrait of Robert E. Lee that faced the one of Ulysses S. Grant, across the main reading room in the West Point Library (last time I was actually in it).

Although the proximate cause, the personal responsibility for Mr. Floyd’s death, appears to belong to the 4 officers at the scene, the real culprit is over 40 years of Democrat governance in the City of Minneapolis. Democrat governance that put this arguably unsuitable officer at the scene, using a restraint technique long abandoned by most police agencies, with policy and legal gaps that failed to require the other officers present to stop him.

Read: Opinion: Most of This Turmoil Has Been Based on a Lie

It’s all well and good to (quite rightly) blame Democrat governance for this sorry state of affairs. But how specifically is it responsible? One major part of the answer is the incestuous relationship between Democrat politicians in large, Democrat-controlled cities and the police unions that support the police officers employed by those same city governments.

The politicians who make up the city governments…city council members and mayors, rely on campaign contributions paid for from union dues, to help fund their campaigns. The union bosses and their rank and file members, expect returns on their investment…returns such as higher salaries, workplace rules, and often unsaid or ignored, protection of officers who step out of line.

It’s that environment of Democrat governance, supported by a police union that kept former Officer Chauvin on the force despite having a number of civilian complaints in his file — 8-10 times that of other officers with his time on the job. We’ve seen this in public sector employees across the professional spectrum, including police, teachers, and your garden variety bureaucrats.

Union contracts are negotiated with the very same political administration for whom the unions helped fund campaigns. Those contracts set salaries, work rules, and employment regulations that make it well nigh impossible to fire a public employee. If not impossible, it can be so expensive for municipalities in terms of litigation, they often just find busy work for miscreants to do while serving out the minimum time ‘til retirement. Google “rubber rooms teachers New York” sometime.

What is the solution to all of this? I hate to give Democrats any compliments, but the City of Camden, New Jersey might have found one possible way. Back in 2013, the City of Camden disbanded its entire (union) police department and then rehired many of them as county employees at a little over half the cost per officer, which of course meant they could put more troops in the field for the same money. From the article

At the time, the cop cartel had pumped up average annual costs per officer (including extraordinarily generous fringe benefits) to $182,168. At that monopoly price, poor Camden could afford to employ just 175 cops, and during peak nighttime crime hours only a dozen might be on patrol.

But laying off the union cops and then rehiring many as county employees reduced costs to $99,605 per officer, enabling lots of new hires while keeping total expenditures roughly the same. Within a couple of years, Camden’s force exceeded 400 — a little over 50 cops per 10,000 residents, about triple the national average for similarly sized cities.

Read: Camden Didn’t ‘Defund the Police’

Camden didn’t just gain cost efficiencies. By putting the union in checkmate, essentially removing it from the board, it was able to establish better procedures and work rules better suited for supervision of its police force. Of course, along with that came more effective options for discipline.

The cautionary note here is not to focus on the “disband,” part of the equation while ignoring the rest. That would be a recipe for disaster. The idea is to eliminate one of the underpinning SOF Democrat governance that is diametrically opposed to the interests of the citizen taxpayers, public sector unions. In the coming days, I’ll discuss other pillars of Democrat governance that are harmful to the citizens they claim to care for. Stay tuned.