Category Archives: Policing

The Problem With Police Unions

The Democratic Party- a problem with unions?  Oh, say it ain’t so!!

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Remember the furor in 2011 when Republican governors tried to reform collective bargaining for government workers? Well, what do you know, suddenly Democrats say public-union labor agreements are frustrating police reform. We’re delighted to hear it—if they’re serious.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Sunday said police collective bargaining and arbitration have prevented the city from holding officers accountable for misconduct. Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with killing George Floyd, had at least 17 misconduct complaints against him in 18 years. His personnel file provides little detail about how these complaints were handled. But it appears he was disciplined only once—after a woman said he pulled her from a car and frisked her for exceeding the speed limit by 10 miles per hour. He received a letter of reprimand.

Minneapolis’s Office of Police Conduct Review has received 2,600 misconduct complaints since 2012. Only 12 have resulted in discipline, and the most severe punishment was a 40-hour suspension. “Unless we are willing to tackle the elephant in the room—which is the police union—there won’t be a culture shift in the department,” Mr. Frey said.

Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago officer convicted of murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, had been the subject of 20 complaints—ranking in the top 4% of Chicago’s police department—including 10 that alleged excessive use of force.

A jury awarded a man $350,000 after finding Mr. Van Dyke employed excessive force during a traffic stop. Yet Mr. Van Dyke was never disciplined. A task force on police reform after the McDonald murder found that “collective bargaining agreements create unnecessary barriers to identifying and addressing police misconduct” and “essentially turned the code of silence into official policy.”

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Police have a point that complaints against them are often dubious and they need an advocate to defend them. But collective-bargaining agreements go beyond due process and insulate officers from accountability for egregious and serial misconduct.

Some 40 states require or permit collective bargaining for police. A Duke Law Journal study in 2017 that analyzed 178 police union contracts concluded that a “lack of corrective action in cases of systemic officer misconduct is, in part, a consequence of public-employee labor law” that in most states permits unions “‘to bargain collectively with regard to policy matters directly affecting wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment.’”

The authors found that about half of cities had collective-bargaining agreements that required the removal of police disciplinary records after a certain period of time. Cleveland’s contract mandated expunging disciplinary records from department databases after two years. This makes it difficult for supervisors to assess whether officer misconduct is habitual.

About two-thirds of police union contracts also allow or require the use of arbitration in disciplinary cases. Private employers often use arbitration to resolve complaints by and against employees, but cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis allow police unions essentially to select the arbitrator.

A University of Pennsylvania Law Review paper last year found that about half of all union contracts give officers or unions “significant power to select the identity of the arbitrator” as well as “provide this arbitrator with significant power to override earlier factual or legal decisions” and “make the arbitrator’s decision final and binding on the police department.”

The average police department, the paper notes, offers officers up to four layers of appellate review. A quarter of officers fired for misconduct between 2006 and 2017 were reinstated, usually by arbitrators. An Oakland police officer shot and killed two unarmed men within the span of six months, one of whom was fleeing. Oakland paid $650,000 to one of the deceased’s family and fired the officer, but an arbitrator ordered him reinstated a few years later with back pay.

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This lack of accountability is endemic to government collective bargaining. The AFL-CIO’s legendary chief George Meany once said “it is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” Collective bargaining in business is adversarial. But public unions sit on both sides of the bargaining table since they help elect the politicians with whom they negotiate.

Democratic lawmakers in particular depend on public unions for political support, and disciplinary protections are easy to give away in contract talks. Teachers unions are the most powerful example, as collective bargaining frustrates school reform and protects lousy teachers, relegating low-income and minority kids to failing schools.

If big-city Democrats really want to change police incentives, rather than merely pass reform gestures, they’ll have to address collective bargaining. Let’s see if their social-justice convictions overcome their desire for political backing from public unions.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-problem-with-police-unions-11591830984?mod=opinion_lead_pos1

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The Full Truth About Race and Policing

There is more to the story.

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6/10/2020. WSJ

Chicago has long been one of the nation’s most dangerous big cities, and it seems determined to keep that distinction.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that 18 people were killed on one Sunday, May 31, “making it the single most violent day in Chicago in six decades.” Over the full weekend, “25 people were killed in the city, with another 85 wounded by gunfire.” None of these deaths or shootings involved police, so there will be no massive protests over them, no tearful commentary on cable news and social media, no white politicians wrapped in Kente cloth taking a knee for photographers.

Sadly, the only thing remarkable about the episode is that it occurred in the middle of a national discussion about policing. The political left, with a great deal of assistance from the mainstream media, has convinced many Americans that George Floyd’s death in police custody is an everyday occurrence for black people in this country, and that racism permeates law enforcement. The reality is that the carnage we witness in Chicago is what’s typical, law enforcement has next to nothing to do with black homicides, and the number of interactions between police and low-income blacks is driven by crime rates, not bias. According to the Sun-Times, there were 492 homicides in Chicago last year, and only three of them involved police.

So long as blacks are committing more than half of all murders and robberies while making up only 13% of the population, and so long as almost all of their victims are their neighbors, these communities will draw the lion’s share of police attention. Defunding the police, or making it easier to prosecute officers, will only result in more lives lost in those neighborhoods that most need protecting.

There’s nothing wrong with having a debate about better policing strategies, how to root out bad cops, the role of police unions and so forth. But that conversation needs perspective and context, and the press rarely provides it. People are protesting because the public has been led to believe that racist cops are gunning for blacks, yet the available evidence shows that police use of deadly force has plunged in recent decades, including in big cities with large populations of low-income minorities. In the early 1970s, New York City police officers shot more than 300 people a year. By 2019 that number had fallen to 34.

Part of the confusion stems from attempts to equate any racial disparities with racism, which is as mistaken as equating age and gender disparities with systemic discrimination. Young people are incarcerated at higher rates than older people, and men draw more police attention than women. Is something fishy going on here, or do such outcomes simply reflect the fact that young men are behind most violent crimes? When journalists break down police behavior by race but don’t do the same for criminal behavior, you’re not getting the whole story.

A recent New York Times report, for example, tells us that the racial makeup of Minneapolis is 20% black and 60% white, and that police there “used force against black people at a rate at least seven times that of white people during the past five years.” Left out of the story are the rates at which blacks and whites in Minneapolis commit crime in general and violent crime in particular. Nor are we told whether there is any evidence that white and black suspects of similar offenses are treated differently. Minneapolis may in fact have issues with police bias, but drawing conclusions about the extent of the problem or even whether one exists would be premature based on the information provided.

Reports about race and policing that omit relevant facts to push a predetermined narrative are not only misleading but harmful, especially to blacks. We know from decades of experience that when police pull back, criminals gain the advantage and black communities suffer, both physically and economically. A common assumption among liberals is that the movement of inner-city jobs to the suburbs in the late 1960s is what led to the higher rates of crime, violence and other social pathologies associated with ghetto life. But this gets the order wrong. The business flight took place after the rioting, not before. Will history repeat itself?

The Walmart and Target stores in Chicago that were looted last week are two of the city’s largest retailers. They employ a disproportionate number of low-skilled workers, and they haven’t decided whether to reopen. If they don’t, it could mean fewer jobs and higher prices for underserved minorities. Before we divert resources away from policing, maybe we should consider the effect it would have on the willingness and ability of businesses to operate in places where they’re most needed.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-full-truth-about-race-and-policing-11591744223?mod=opinion_lead_pos5

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The Myth of Systemic Police Racism

Thank you, Heather Mac Donald, for bring some clarity to this discussion with numbers. mrossol.

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WSJ  6/3/2020 by Heather Mac Donald

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis has revived the Obama-era narrative that law enforcement is endemically racist. On Friday, Barack Obama tweeted that for millions of black Americans, being treated differently by the criminal justice system on account of race is “tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal.’ ” Mr. Obama called on the police and the public to create a “new normal,” in which bigotry no longer “infects our institutions and our hearts.”

Joe Biden released a video the same day in which he asserted that all African-Americans fear for their safety from “bad police” and black children must be instructed to tolerate police abuse just so they can “make it home.” That echoed a claim Mr. Obama made after the ambush murder of five Dallas officers in July 2016. During their memorial service, the president said African-American parents were right to fear that their children may be killed by police officers whenever they go outside.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz denounced the “stain . . . of fundamental, institutional racism” on law enforcement during a Friday press conference. He claimed blacks were right to dismiss promises of police reform as empty verbiage.

This charge of systemic police bias was wrong during the Obama years and remains so today. However sickening the video of Floyd’s arrest, it isn’t representative of the 375 million annual contacts that police officers have with civilians. A solid body of evidence finds no structural bias in the criminal-justice system with regard to arrests, prosecution or sentencing. Crime and suspect behavior, not race, determine most police actions.

In 2019 police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. African-Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops last year (235), a ratio that has remained stable since 2015. That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.

The police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, according to a Washington Post database, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015. The Post defines “unarmed” broadly to include such cases as a suspect in Newark, N.J., who had a loaded handgun in his car during a police chase. In 2018 there were 7,407 black homicide victims. Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African-Americans killed in 2019. By contrast, a police officer is 18½ times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.

On Memorial Day weekend in Chicago alone, 10 African-Americans were killed in drive-by shootings. Such routine violence has continued—a 72-year-old Chicago man shot in the face on May 29 by a gunman who fired about a dozen shots into a residence; two 19-year-old women on the South Side shot to death as they sat in a parked car a few hours earlier; a 16-year-old boy fatally stabbed with his own knife that same day. This past weekend, 80 Chicagoans were shot in drive-by shootings, 21 fatally, the victims overwhelmingly black. Police shootings are not the reason that blacks die of homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined; criminal violence is.

The latest in a series of studies undercutting the claim of systemic police bias was published in August 2019 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found that the more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that a member of that group will be fatally shot by a police officer. There is “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by police,” they concluded.

A 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects. Research by Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr. also found no evidence of racial discrimination in shootings. Any evidence to the contrary fails to take into account crime rates and civilian behavior before and during interactions with police.

The false narrative of systemic police bias resulted in targeted killings of officers during the Obama presidency. The pattern may be repeating itself. Officers are being assaulted and shot at while they try to arrest gun suspects or respond to the growing riots. Police precincts and courthouses have been destroyed with impunity, which will encourage more civilization-destroying violence. If the Ferguson effect of officers backing off law enforcement in minority neighborhoods is reborn as the Minneapolis effect, the thousands of law-abiding African-Americans who depend on the police for basic safety will once again be the victims.

The Minneapolis officers who arrested George Floyd must be held accountable for their excessive use of force and callous indifference to his distress. Police training needs to double down on de-escalation tactics. But Floyd’s death should not undermine the legitimacy of American law enforcement, without which we will continue on a path toward chaos.

Ms. Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of “The War on Cops,” (Encounter Books, 2016).

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-myth-of-systemic-police-racism-11591119883?mod=trending_now_pos1

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I fear for america

Yes, there are racists in America. Always have been and always will be.  But William Galston is likely closer to the truth in his analysis that there is something missing in American police organization that will not correctly address the “bad apples”, the bad cops who are the cause of an extremely high percentage of the problems.  And if the Police unions bear some of the blame, they need to own it too.  mrossol

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WSJ 6/3/2020. by William A Galston

Along with millions of Americans, including President Trump, I watched the video in which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before Floyd died. Although Mr. Chauvin knew he was being recorded, he appeared not to care. He must have believed that he could act with impunity. And why not? The 18 complaints previously filed against him had led to nothing more than two letters of reprimand.

This is part of a larger pattern. Civilians have lodged more than 2,600 complaints against Minneapolis police officers since 2012, the Journal reports. Only 12 have resulted in disciplinary action, and the most severe penalty was a 40-hour suspension from duty. It is hard to believe that the facts underlying so many complaints warranted no more than this.

Rioters Torch the Rule of Law

00:00 / 23:14

Writing in these pages on Monday, Robert L. Woodson, a veteran African-American leader, recalls his work decades ago with the National Black Police Association, which recommended requiring police officers to restrain or even arrest other officers who were using undue force against civilians. “Loyalty and commitment to the rule of law should prevail over loyalty to fellow officers,” Mr. Woodson writes.

This did not happen in Minneapolis last week. The three other officers on the scene did nothing to restrain Mr. Chauvin and said almost nothing to persuade him to alter his conduct. It is hard to believe that they would have behaved this way if Mr. Woodson’s unarguable principle had been an enforceable rule in their department.

In some ways, Minneapolis was ripe for this incident. The city’s income gap between white and African-American households is among the widest in the country. Minorities are significantly underrepresented in its police force. Only 8% of its officers live in the city—almost none in minority communities—compared with a nationwide average of 40%.

Although Minneapolis has had its share of reformist police chiefs and elected officials, change has come haltingly. As in many other cities, the police union has protected its members against discipline and dismissal. The current head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis was named in a racial-discrimination lawsuit brought by a group of black officers, including the city’s current police chief.

Despite its special history, Minneapolis is far from unique, which helps explain the eruption of protests across the country. The U.S. has a pervasive problem. Bolstering federal criminal and civil laws against police misconduct is part of the solution—if the attorney general is committed to enforcing them vigorously. But the bulk of the response must take place at the state and local level, starting with Mr. Woodson’s proposal. And while officers charged with misconduct are entitled to due process, police unions should be deprived of the power to thwart needed disciplinary action.

Sadly, Americans’ response to these episodes has become routinized. We repeat, accurately, that most officers are dedicated public servants doing their best, under difficult conditions, to protect local residents and preserve public order. We insist, as we should, on preserving a bright line between peaceful protest, which is the right of every citizen, and violence against lives and property. And we recognize, rightly, that when arson and looting occur, minority-owned businesses are often the principal victims.

But Americans have been mouthing these sentiments for decades, and nothing has changed. A structural problem requires a structural response. We need one urgently.

I have long regarded 1968 as the worst year for America since the Civil War. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the violent protests it sparked; the killing of Robert F. Kennedy and the Democratic Party’s subsequent self-immolation at the Chicago convention; intensifying controversy over the Vietnam War, which divided classes and generations; George C. Wallace’s racist and populist presidential campaign, which garnered 13.5% of the popular vote and 46 electoral votes—these were but some of the milestones in that annus horribilis.

April 1968. Smoke was billowing in the distance—from the South Side—as I drove in Chicago, where I was a student at the time. I remember saying to myself: It can’t get worse than this. For more than half a century it didn’t—until now. A health crisis, an economic crisis, and a racial crisis have converged to produce a clear and present danger to American democracy. U.S. enemies abroad cannot contain their glee; America’s friends regret our plight—and fear for the future of a world order that was built on a foundation of American power, principles and persistence.

Adam Smith famously remarked that there is “a lot of ruin in a nation.” But there are limits, and we are testing them. Previous crises have always summoned the leadership the U.S. needed. Will our current crisis do the same? I’m not sure. I fear, as never before, for the future of my country.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/ive-never-been-so-afraid-for-america-11591139729?mod=opinion_featst_pos3

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