Diary

Want to end the problem of excessive use of force by police ? Easy. Eliminate police unions.

Set against the recent growth of the Black Lives Matter and social justice movements (which pretty much denigrate all cops as inherently evil, and also seek to emasculate the police) there has arisen  a spirited, (and happily civil debate) among conservatives and libertarians, at Red State and elsewhere,  as to the proper role and function of police in our society, and how some fear we are moving towards a more totalitarian society.

Leon Wolf has written extensively about the growing problem of “cops grossly overreacting to having their authority challenged.” 

If you missed it, please go back and read his excellent piece from earlier this month, Here’s Why You Can’t Just Take the Cop to Court.

And as he correctly points out, whenever one of these tragic incidents occurs, many conservatives, like myself, often, and possibly reflexively, take the position that  “The right thing to do,” these people insist, “is to be nice and polite to the cop and do whatever he says, and then later sue him if he violated your constitutional rights.”

As I’ve written here often, my worldview, as one of “those conservatives” mentioned  above,  is shaped primarily by a  great respect and admiration for law inforcement; their willingness to accept the inherent dangers of the job; and the understanding that they are constantly forced to make split-second, life and death decisions that we then have the luxury of debating at leisure after the fact. To cite just one example,  in the Ferguson shooting, Officer Darren Wilson was ultimately exonerated of any and all charges in the death of “gentle giant” Michael Brown, despite being prematurely  convicted, and lynched by 99.9% of the MSM.

In addition, “man bites dog” stories generate lots of media attention, whereas the all too commonplace obverse is far too often ignored. Cops do a tremendous amount of good each day, and it all goes unmentioned, and unrecognized, except by those who are happy, and fortunate, that the “men in blue” were there.

I am in no way defending all police. In a large population, there are bound to be a few rotten apples, and I believed the system would punish them.

However, learning that Chicago police officer who shot teen subject of 18 civilian complaints led me to do a little thinking, and some research. Simply put, I couldn’t understand why and how he was still on the job.

I don’t know anything about the workings of the Chicago Police Dep’t. I wanted instead to  look at the issue nationwide.

**********************************************

FYI, a brief, but fascinating aside: Dick Wolf, who has chronicled the inner workings of NYC’s police and legal system for decades, via “Law & Order” and multiple spinoffs,  has recently turned his focus to the “city of the big shoulders,” with three new TV series, “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire,” and “Chicago Med.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel has had extensive cameos in each of the shows, thus bestowing on them the mayoral imprimatur.

Yet, in most every episode of “Chicago PD”, the case is solved by the prominent actions of the head of the Intelligence Unit, Sgt. Hank Voight, violating the civil rights of the suspects by not only threatening to beat the crap out of them, but in multiple instances, actually doing so.  Indeed, the basement of the police station features a chain link cage, where suspects are confined BEFORE being formally booked, let alone Mirandized, so that they can be forcibly “interrogated”  ( beaten bloody) by Sgt. Voight.

Curiously, Mayor Emanuel sees no incongruity here whatsoever, nor has he been asked to explain his support for the show.

*********************************************************

There are about 800,000 sworn police officers, among all jurisdictions, in the United States. A simple internet search will reveal how many are killed in the line of duty each year.  And fittingly, there are innumerable memorials to the stories of their lives, and their sacrifices.

However, try to find out how many police officers are fired each year, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

My search turned up one interesting link, to a self-published book by a retired, and well respected police officer, Tim Dees, “The Truth about Cops: A retired police officer’s answers to all your burning questions. His website features an except from one chapter: Why are so few police officers in the US fired for poor job performance, drug use, personal criminal activity, etc. in a calendar year? (Note: I’ve downloaded the book, and will post a diary after I’ve read it.)

From the excerpt: “On the upside, fewer than 1% of all law enforcement officers engage in any serious misconduct likely to cause them to lose their jobs. Even so, that’s still around 8,000 cops at any one time, so it’s still a problem.”

Note Dees’ use of “likely.” He doesn’t tell us here how many actually do lose their jobs.  No doubt it’s a lot less than 8,000.

The officer in Chicago should probably have been fired years ago. While many civilian complaints are often frivolous, or an attempt to detract from the legitimacy of the underlying arrest, or an attempt to extort a financial settlement; however, 18  complaints in 14 years is a pattern.

Most police officers, after graduating from a LE academy, are on probation from 1-2 years, during which time they can be dismissed at will for any violation. After their probationary period, they are protected by multiple provisions of their union contract.

And the police unions exert a tremendous  amount of political influence within their local jurisdictions. In this regard, they are no different than any other government employees union, be it teachers, DMV workers, IRS employees,  State Dept employees involved wih Benghazi) or VA employees, (where despite specific Congressional  laws allowing for immediate dismissal of employees and managers for horrific job failings, not one has yet been fired).

In the often, and much deservedly maligned NYC school system, there are hundreds of teachers being paid full salary and benefits, often for years, if not decades, to sit in “rubber classrooms” and NOT teach, because the union contract blocks any effort to fire them.

Every proposal for improving public education ever written identifies teachers unions as the key impediment to any reforms. Yet nothing ever seems to happen.

So maybe we need to change how we view the problem of excessive use of force by the police. Stop thinking of cops as somehow being “special.” Instead, imagine them as teachers with guns. And since we can’t manage to get rid of bad teachers, why should we assume that we can somehow rid ourselves of bad cops. Why do we get so concerned when a bad cop wrongfully kills a civilian; yet we do nothing when tens of thousands of bad, ineffective teachers, each year “kill” the chances of million of children to achieve success in life.

Indeed, simply because they can, and do, use lethal force, it’s more imperative that we weed out the bad cops, the weak and ineffective ones.

If we could end all governmental employee unions, especially with their ability to  negotiate for salaries, benefits, and work rules, we’d be a lot closer to retaking control of our ever expanding governments, and then reducing their size, and scope of their intrusion in our lives.

And if police administrations had a legitimate means of weeding out those who prove early on to be unfit to carry a badge and a weapon, it’s likely that many of these tragic police interactions would no longer occur. Firstly because the bad cops wouldn’t be on the job, and second, and more important, it would motivate all other officers to be far more careful and circumspect in their  interactions with civilians.

Think it can’t work? Here’s just one example….

My late father was in the automobile business in NYC. He was encouraged to open his own dealership in the suburbs,  by S.M. Rose, who for almost 4 decades,  ran one of the largest Chevrolet dealerships in the nation, selling  thousands of cars each year during the 1950s, 60’s and 70’s ( from his nondescript location in the Bronx; before the Bronx, and the rest of NYC, deteriorated)

Rose is best remembered for being one of the first car dealers to advertise on late-night television, often running 50 or more ads each week. This generated a lot of floor traffic, the lifeblood of any car dealership. However, he also had one little known method for achieving his continual sales success.

Rose employed between 50-100 salesmen at any given time during his career. Salesmen were ranked by the number of cars they sold each month.  And early on, Rose adopted this unique, and some would say draconian, method for keeping his salesmen motivated, and focused:

At the end of each month, unless that individual had been on vacation, or missed work due to a hospitalization, the individual with the lowest number of deliveries was fired. Everyone knew it going in. It was carefully explained before they were hired. No exceptions, not  even if you’d been working there 10 years.

Car salesmen WANTED to work for Rose, because of the large number of customers he attracted to the dealership. The good ones made a lot of money. So, as the last week of the month neared, those on the bottom rung moved heaven and earth to close deals.

I’m not equating cops with car salesmen. Police officers today are well paid, with superb benefits, and the opportunity to retire far younger than most of us could ever imagine. Yes, the job has its risks, but also its rewards, and just because one became a cop, one isn’t somehow automatically entitled to wear the badge just because…..

If we can find a viable, and fair methodology to weed out the bad cops early on, we can go a long way to solving the problem of excessive use of force by the police.

********************************************************

Note: I apologize for the failure of my second and third links above. Never had this problem before. My bad, I’ve tried multiple times to get them to work, with absolutely no success. I have NO idea what I am doing wrong. So, here they are, directly (just cut and paste into your browser):

 

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/11/26/chicago-police-officer-who-shot-teen-subject-18-civilian-complaints/?intcmp=hpbt2

http://www.hyperink.com/Why-Are-So-Few-Police-Officers-In-The-Us-Fired-For-Poor-Job-Performance-Drug-Use-Personal-Criminal-Activity-Etc-In-A-Calendar-Year-b5804172C4Ca13