Police Unions Cross Line While Bullying Public Officials

California cops employ mafia-style tactics against their critics.

California city officials typically spare police officers even modest reductions in the pay and pension packages that are a main source of local budget problems, even when the other alternatives are cuts in public services or even municipal bankruptcy.

The common explanation is politicians are afraid of the cop unions’ political muscle come election time. That is true, but disturbing behavior by operatives associated with the Costa Mesa police union paints a much darker picture of the fear such unions instill in local officials. The incident has statewide and even national implications.

Costa Mesa Councilman Jim Righeimer had finished speaking at a community meeting last Wednesday, and then headed to a pub owned by fellow councilman Gary Monahan. Righeimer drank two sodas and drove home. After arriving home, a Costa Mesa cop showed up at his door and asked him to step outside and take a sobriety test, which he passed.

That a police officer can ask for a sobriety test after you have returned home is troubling enough, but the details of the case are even more astonishing.

A private eye with connections to the law firm Lackie, Dammeier & McGill of Upland, Calif., which represents the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association and many others across the state, called 911  and reported Righeimer as a possible DUI, representing himself as a concerned citizen. The caller said  Righeimer stumbled out of the bar even though surveillance cameras show no such thing. “He’s just swerving all over the road,” the caller stated.

The private eye, Chris Lanzillo, a fired Riverside police officer who showed up at Righeimer’s house in a car without license plates, claims he was not on orders to follow Righeimer. The law firm also denied this but promptly removed Lanzillo's name from its Web site.

The Costa Mesa union fired the firm, moments before a city press conference. But this backpedaling is not credible. The law firm brags publicly about its brass-knucked tactics, and its Web site features testimonials from unions thrilled by how its legal work brings city managers to their knees. There's no sense believing anything said by a man whose claims in the police report are not even close to reality. The whole situation screams set up.

“What you have here is police associations and their law firms hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on elected officials that they can then use to extort them, embarrass them or worse in order to get the elected official to vote against the best interests of the city to protect themselves,” Righeimer told me. “That’s the definition of extortion.”

The Costa Mesa City Council is gaining national attention for its willingness to challenge unions. The council has passed pension reform and embraced outsourcing. It recently approved the Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) ordinance, which subjects contract negotiations to a level of outside auditing and public disclosure that has infuriated unions.

It would have been an embarrassment had the union ensnared the ring-leader of this reform movement in a DUI. But this is the kind of behavior one finds in police states, or perhaps Mafia organizations. It is not an isolated incident.

Recently, the Orange County Register’s Tony Saavedra reported on the “playbook” used by that Upland firm in its negotiations, and until recently published on the firm’s Web site. These lawyers represent 120 police associations across California, so these are typical tactics.
The fake-DUI call took place soon after Righeimer publicly criticized the firm.

“Its primer for police negotiations is part swagger, part braggadocio and all insult in its portrayal of the public and the budget-conscious officials elected to represent them,” Saavedra reported. He gave this example from the playbook text: “The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of ‘do as I ask and don’t (expletive) me off.’”

The playback calls for work slowdowns, for mobbing council meetings with calls for higher police funding, for scaring neighborhoods about crime problems by going to as many houses as possible looking for suspects for minor crimes. It calls for putting the pressure on officials, gaining their loyalty and then moving on to the “next victim.” This treatment of Righeimer takes a page out of the book.

At a press conference held by Righeimer to spotlight the behavior of unions associated with Lackie, Dammeier & McGill, Councilman Fred Smith of Buena Park, who has also taken a tough stance on unions, said a uniformed officer approached waitresses and demanded to know why their restaurant had a Smith for Council sign in the window, as their squad cars blocked the restaurant parking lot entrance. Elected officials shared examples of threatening statements and text messages by police union operatives. Councilman Monahan has in the past said police have staked out his bar and pulled over patrons as they leave to harm his business.

“It’s a pretty dark side of American policing and I have personally been a victim of this twisted cop behavior when I was police chief,” Joseph McNamara told me, after I mentioned Costa Mesa. He is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former police chief for Kansas City and San Jose. This “gangster cop” mentality, he said, becomes more prevalent during salary negotiations.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The unholy alliance of union thuggery and law enforcement hyper-aggression.

  • $park¥||

    And nothing else happened.

  • WTF||

    "STOP RESISTING!"

  • Father Jack||

    I have it on very good authority that the members of Lackie, Dammeier McGill regularly consume sandwiches composed primarily of fecal matter whilst swerving dangerously along the public highways trying to keep appointments with their dope dealers and mistresses.
    Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!

  • Father Jack||

    Lackie, Dammeier McGill Slogan: Former Swine Defending Current Swine.

    Got bacon?

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's going to be all Eastwood movie images today, isn't it? I suppose that's fair, since he said the word "libertarian." Did that word get used by any other speaker in the convention?

  • Restoras||

    Seriously though, a Magnum Force pic and no alt+text? WTF?

  • Pro Libertate||

    "Tell you something. If the rest of you could shoot like them, I wouldn't care if the whole damn department was queer."

    or

    "A man's GOT to know his limitations."

  • ||

    reason.com articles are generally not alt texted.

  • Christina||

    "You don't want a criminal lawyer...you want a criminal lawyer."

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Toughest mob there is.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Sounds like the Upland lawfirm is ripe for a RICO lawsuit.

    Also, is anyone pushing for disbarrment of the lawyer that fraudulently called the police on the CM councilman?

    Finally, this is a great example of why police unions should be illegal.

  • ant1sthenes||

    RICO lawsuit? Ha. Fighting evil Californian law firms takes vampires.

  • Ron||

    and California probably has lots of vampire lawyers that glitter.

  • Father Jack||

    And many of them vigorously provide oral gratification to the various Chiefs of Police in their locales.

    Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The problem with unions is that they have essentially ALWAYS been about intimidation. There was a time, and will be again, when the behavior of employers fully justified this, when the unions were a necessary counterbalance. Now they are simply one more bunch of thugs out to screw everybody else, and often are run more to benefit their officers than they are to benefit the rank and file.

    Public service unions are all this and twice on Thursdays.

    It is to be hoped that the situation can be ameliorated without passing a bunch of anti-union laws that would be serious trouble in fifty years.

  • ant1sthenes||

    I think if those laws were limited to cop unions (where "bad behavior" is less likely to mean "laziness and incompetence" than "civil rights violations and criminal activity"), there wouldn't be much risk.

    Certainly, as far as prisec unions are concerned, the only thing necessary is to eliminate pro-union laws, and then hold them accountable just like any other corporate interest.

  • ||

    Your point about the historical abuse of employees needing to be counterbalanced by union mob violence and intimidation, to the extent that it has any validity at all, is utterly void in the case of public sector unions. There's never been any point in history when cops and firemen were sweat-shop slaves. Which is why even the vociferously pro-labor, anti-businesses FDR was against organizing public sector labor.

    Since the law has made the type of intimidation by employers that you describe illegal for, oh, 75 years or so, there's also no reason whatsoever why we shouldn't heartily welcome "a bunch of anti-union laws" that might restore some semblance of sanity, to say nothing of liberty, to the labor market.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    To be fair here, the headline doesn't seem to exactly match the gist of the story. Yes, the police and their unions are clearly in league with the thuggery, the worst perpetrators here seem to be Lackie, Dammeier McGill. Is there any legal way to have the entire firm disbarred?

  • ||

    Who watches the watchmen?

    When you are working enforcement for the enforcers of the law, how likely is it that the law is going to come down on you? Do you see Eric Holder's DOJ looking at racketeering charges? Do you see the local cops investigating these allegations? Do you see the local prosecutor bringing charges?

  • ||

    Any of our legal experts care to comment on whether a cop can knock on your door and demand you step outside for a sobriety test, and you do not have the right to tell him to piss up a rope?

  • Agammamon||

    In CA, apparently the cops can and more - such as entering a home and dragging a teen out of bed for a sobriety test because she had been reported as being at a party with other underage drinkers earlier in the night.

  • ||

    Begs the question. Can they do it legally and without consent or a warrant?

  • Scott Grossman||

    Sadly, yes they can.

  • DenverJay||

    OMFG! Seriously? These jackbooted thugs should be in prison! This is exhibit #1 why the Second Amendment exists!

  • Francisco||

    Not the whole government, just the President and a handful of Congress...oh, wait 'Neros' nvm.

  • Ardelle||

    It would have been an embarrassment had the union ensnared the ring-leader of this reform movement in a DUI. But this is the kind of behavior one finds in police states, or perhaps Mafia organizations. It is not an isolated incident.

  • Beowulf||

    And in North Georgia....

    1) Woman alleges that a Judge propositioned her.
    2) Judge forced to resign.
    3) Several weeks later, woman stopped for "failing to dim her lights." 4) Drug-sniffing dog called in - police find meth in magnetic box attached to her car, arrest her.
    5) GBI clears woman - charges dropped.
    6) Deputy who arrested her suspended and later fired for lying to investigators
    7) Deputy's supervisor (and Judge's cousin) fired for lying to investigators
    8) Unnamed civilian admitted to planting the meth on woman's car.

    What a strange string of coincidences in a small town!

    One Murray County officer fired, another taken off duty after allegations of planting drugs

    A Murray County sheriff's deputy has been fired for evidence that he lied to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about facts related to Angela Garmley's arrest, the sheriff confirmed.

    ... Garmley's complaint against former Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran sparked an investigation and led to his resignation.

    Greeson's shift supervisor Capt. Michael Henderson, who is Cochran's cousin, is still on paid leave ...

    Cochran resigned the day after Garmley’s arrest and is now under criminal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for the solicitation allegations.

    He is also being investigated for allegedly signing pre-warrants that officers used at their discretion.

    Cochran admitted to illegally signing warrants in his written resignation letter, but denied the other allegations.

  • DJK||

    Where's dunphy to tell us how the solution is higher salaries for corrupt cops?

  • gigarath6||

    Like I needed anymore reasons to hate public unions.

  • Father Jack||

    I have it on very good authority that the members of Lackie, Dammeier McGill regularly consume sandwiches composed primarily of fecal matter whilst swerving dangerously along the public highways trying to keep appointments with their dope dealers and mistresses.
    Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!

  • Rufus||

    I'm surprised they're going with thug tactics when they've previously used political ones quite successfully. A few years ago in Westminater CA, about 20 miles north of Costa Mesa, the fire union went after the city council after they had the guts to go after insane overtime charging. The AFL-CIO opened an office in the city and heavily funded union stooge opponents to the council members. Badda-bing badda-boom and the fiscally responsible council members were bounced from office and the rest intimidated from then on. Then the AFL-CIO closed their office and left, knowing their job was done.

    Besides an article in the OC Register, the LA Slimes said nothing about this. You can imagine the uproar in the "watchdog press" if some corporation employed such tactics.

  • Art Chance||

    I was a Republican appointee director of labor relations in one of the handful of states that have unionized public employees AND a Republican government. The only union that I was ever genuinely afraid of was our cop union, which represented both the State police force and the police force in our capital city. Even before I was an appointee, as a protected merit system employee I wouldn't dare have even one drink in a capital city watering hole and drive home; I knew to a moral certainty that somebody would drop a dime on me and I'd be pulled over on the way home. As an appointee I knew I had to be Caesar's Wife, and maybe even that wouldn't be enough - but they never got me! The power the cop unions have is really the arrest they don't make and the pictures the union has in the safe. Most states don't even have the protection the private sector bargaining law has which requires "guards" unions to be unaffiliated with unions that represent any other employees. You have serious problems when your cop union is affiliated with one of your other unions and you need some goons arrested. Who you gonna' call?

  • JWnTX||

    This is right in line with the SEIU and other union thugs we've seen operating around the country. Time to decertify and outlaw public employee unions. They cannot be trusted to represent the interests of those who pay their salaries, the taxpayers of America.

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