Police Unions Starting To Almost Reconsider Letting Bad Cops Get Away With Murder
Thanks to police unions, the average cop enjoys the same privileges as a made man. They are completely untouchable, with a "license to do anything." But the party might be ending. CNN reports that 15 unions that represent law enforcement officers across the US are considering a shift in how they protect cops. For instance, they might actually look at the merits of an officer's actions when considering whether to defend them. This is apparently “unprecedented."
The biggest change involves the idea of "active bystanders," which would require cops to intervene if they witness a fellow officer doing something wrong. This is apparently a "relatively new concept in law enforcement," but it's received a lot of attention after former Minneapolis Police officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane stood around and watched while convicted murderer Derek Chauvin choked the life out of George Floyd. Supposed “good" cops have expressed sympathy for the three cops because what were they supposed to do while this murder was in progress? Stopping a crime in progress is somehow a complex trolley problem when the perpetrator has a badge.
Other industries and trade unions have specific programs that advise colleagues on how to “intervene when they see another worker behaving poorly or making mistakes." Of course, in other union jobs, “making mistakes" might involve incorrectly cutting an I-beam not beating up a disoriented old woman. The standards should've always been higher for law enforcement.
Friday, the AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Service Employees International Union approved the new plan that impacts 250,000 law enforcement members and more than 100,000 members in police-adjacent professions.
The program will "empower local union members to speak up and take action if fellow members are violating their professional oath or abusing their power, and ultimately helps the union weed out wrong-doers from union membership," according to the document.
"We'll represent you, we'll be there for you, absolutely. Unless you don't hold up your end of the bargain," said Lisa Titus, who was part of the committee that wrote this plan. "But we'll also hold you accountable. It is a big shift, and it's going to take some time."
Wow, this “big shift" certainly deserves the slowest of slow claps.
The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 356,000 members across the country, was not involved in this plan. Former police officer John Paul Smith, a United Steel Workers staffer, called out the FOP leaders' "incendiary rhetoric" over the past year. The FOP endorsed the lawless one-term loser for president, possibly because of his “don't be too nice" with suspects platform.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, declared, "I'm fascinated by this but don't have anything to say about it." He was less enigmatic when he threatened Quentin Tarantino in 2015 like one of the gangsters from the director's films.
"Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element," says Pasco. "Something could happen anytime between now and [the premiere of The Hateful Eight] ... The right time and place will come up and we'll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that's economically."
After Chauvin's brutal murder of Floyd, the AFL-CIO, Teamsters and SEIU convened a Racial Justice Task Force with five labor-specific committees. The police-centric one produced a report called "The Labor Movement's Public Safety Blueprint for Change."
"There is broad agreement among organized labor that meaningful public safety reforms are needed, and we must re-imagine the construct and relationship that law enforcement has with the communities we serve," the committee wrote. "Public safety professionals, and our unions, have a duty to call out the wrong-doers and actions that harm people in our communities and, in doing so, the integrity of our profession. We can no longer stand idly by, or defend transgressors, when those who fail to uphold their oath and duty take actions that stain the work of law enforcement."
Smith argues that police unions and cops in general have a choice: "change their culture or watch their rights get legislated out of existence." Cops have always had the same rights as anyone else, which don't include abusing and even killing civilians without consequences.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."