Police

Cops As Robbers

|

Over at NRO, Daniel Foster tackles the growing influence of police and firefighter unions, and the petulant fearmongering they're employing when political leaders threaten layoffs or cuts to cushy overtime pay and fat pensions. Excerpt:

The public/private disparity is especially stark when one focuses on public-safety compensation in places such as Oakland; police and firemen have accounted for about 75 percent of expenditures from the city's general fund over the last five years. Average total compensation for an officer in Oakland — a city in which the median family earns $47,000 — is $162,000 per year.

As with most public-sector workers, a major — and opaque — piece of emergency-services compensation comes in the form of lifelong pensions.

"Public-safety workers tend to receive the most generous public-employee pensions," says Josh Barro, a Manhattan Institute fellow and expert on state and local finance. "They are based on a significantly shorter career — it is not atypical to see police and fire pensions based on 20 years of service — and they also tend to be more generous as a percentage of salary."

Other laws make the payouts even more generous. In New York, for instance, a "presumptive disability" law makes it easy for firemen to secure lifetime, tax-free pensions at three-quarters pay; when examining a fireman for the purpose of determining whether he has a work-related disability, a doctor is required to start with the assumption that certain illnesses are job-related even if there is no evidence that they are. A fireman from a Bronx ladder company who develops a lung disorder will qualify for disability retirement even if it's unclear whether he developed his impairment from smoke inhalation on the job, or from his two-pack-a-day cigarette habit.

The "presumptive disability" bonanza is sometimes exacerbated by abuse. In July, the New York Post told the story of John C. McLaughlin, a 55-year-old former FDNY lieutenant who retired in 2001 with an $86,000-a-year disability pension, after it was determined that he was an asthmatic with diminished lung capacity. This despite the fact that McLaughlin is an accomplished triathlete who regularly competes in long-distance races.

McLaughlin is hardly alone. An astonishing 80 percent of 2010 FDNY retirees have qualified for disability benefits.

Regular readers of this site are well-versed in stories about how difficult police unions have made it to fire police officers for misconduct (and even then, to prevent them from merely taking a job in a different department) even when they commit actual crimes, never mind for mere incompetence. The rogue cop put on "paid leave" is so common it's become cliche. But here's a particularly apt recent example from Reading, Pennsylvania, courtesy of the Injustice Everywhere site.

The city policeman who accidentally shot and killed fellow Officer Michael H. Wise II during a shootout six years ago is still being paid about $100,000 per year in salary and benefits by the city of Reading—even though he has been suspended since the shooting.

James A. Palange shot and killed Wise on June 4, 2004, when he mistook the plain-clothed Wise for a criminal as he pulled up to a gunbattle on Schuylkill Avenue that pitted Wise and two other officers against a man hiding behind a car, investigators said.

Six years later, Palange is still being paid $61,911 in salary plus benefits, medical insurance and pension even though he has not worked a day for the city since the shooting.

But it's not because he cannot work or does not want to.

For the past three years he has been working as one of four full-time police officers in Mohnton. He was hired there in June 2007 and is paid $23.93 an hour…

Reading police Chief William M. Heim said it was a personnel matter and issued a written statement only after consulting with city attorneys and other officials.

"The issue with Officer Palange is an open personnel matter among the city, the officer and the Fraternal Order of Police," Heim wrote.

He wrote that the issue is complicated by the union contract and civil and criminal cases that followed the shooting.

"The city and the FOP are still making efforts to settle this matter, even as discussions about an arbitration hearing continue," he wrote.

I don't know the story behind Wise's shooting. It's possible that he's a great cop who made a mistake and deserves to have his job back. But paying him $100K/year in salary and benefits for six years while he works as a full-time cop in another jurisdiction is a curious sort of reprimand. Reading, incidentally, ran an $11 million deficit last year, and the city has been in the red since 2007.

Advertisement

NEXT: A Brief Reminder of Why The Internets Are Really Cool

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “And one more thing, Officer Wise – you fuck up on this suspension, and we’ll give you a $5000 raise faster than you can say Jack Robinson!”

    1. or the, y’know, other guy who did the shooting and is still alive.

      Shit.

  2. Six years later, Palange is still being paid $61,911 in salary plus benefits, medical insurance and pension even though he has not worked a day for the city since the shooting.

    Is it wrong that when I read this stuff I get a strong hint of jealousy simmering beneath the anger? I mean, shit, that’s a sweet gig, I don’t care who you are.

    1. Hell, I’d take it. Who do I shoot?

      1. Generally, you practice on dogs for a while.

  3. ran an $11 million deificit last year

    The deficit has been deified? Will be tough to get rid of now.

    1. No no it’s okay, everything’s taken care of. Just read the plan…

      The recovery plan offers two options to infuse revenue in the short-term:

      1. Increase the property tax by 10 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in each of the subsequent four years; and implement a parking surcharge through 2014. These measures would generate $20.3 million in additional revenue over five years.

      2. Increase the property tax by 10 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in each of the subsequent four years; and increase the resident and non-resident earned income tax for 2011 ? 2013. These measures would generate $22.7 million in additional revenue over five years.

      Because if you control for population flight and capital destruction, then this plan is grounded in reality.

  4. One reason for paid leave: if your state employer stops your pay, you are entitled to due process, which usually requires a hearing, written statement of charges, right to counsel, etc.

    If a supervisor just heard “Balko kicked a guy in the nuts!” he might really want to fire Balko, but if he does it immediately, Balko can invoke all the due process stuff. And if the investigation into nut-kicking is incomplete, it’s the boss who looks stupid, not the nut-kicker.

    1. and cops have rightly gotten big settlements when they are fired w/o due process.

      heck, we had an officer in our own agency who was fired after some really bogus DV charges (if you think the war on drugs erodes liberty, it takes a back seat to the war on DV imo…). as we expected, he got quite a nice settlement of back pay and punitive damages, and as he should.

      accusations =/= guilt. it wasn’t true in the duke case, and it works that way elsewhere. certainly, the process can be streamlined and improved, though.

      1. and cops have rightly gotten big settlements when they are fired w/o due process.

        I happen to believe in employment at will, especially for public employees. Which means there is no “rightly” getting a big settlement because your boss fumbled the paperwork when you got fired.

        Our here in the productive world, you aren’t entitled to your job, so it can be taken from you without due process.

        So, really what you are saying is some cops have picked the pockets of the taxpayers because one of their fellow cops botched some paperwork. Nice standard of “rightly” you got there.

        1. That due process gurantee doesn’t come the tooth fairy.

          It comes from the constitution, amendment V. When the state is your employer, they cannot deprive you of property without due process. It’s the same reason you can fire a private employee for their free speech, but not a public employee.

          Trust me, I’ve seen it abused. But it is a constitutional right.

          1. What are you talking about? Where is there any deprivation of property when firing someone? Nothing in the Fifth Amendment touches on employment.

            The “due process” stuff when firing a public employee is statutory or regulatory, it is not constitutional.

          2. What dfd said. You don’t have a property right to a government job, such that firing you is “taking” your “property.”

            What you’ve got is a civil service job, larded up with all kinds of benefits, including lotsa lotsa bureaucracy and paperwork (look, ma, more pubsec makework1) before you’re canned.

      2. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

  5. If you belong to a union, you are not a hero.

    1. absurd. how does membership in a union (in my case, i have no choice. it’s a requirement of the job) have any relation to whether a cop is a hero. heroics are defined by actions. union membership is as irrelevant as race or gender.

      1. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

  6. Rogue Cop: Serpico.

    1. Actually, Serpico speaks out against rouge cops. He’s been doing so for years. He sums it up well too. He says the problems will continue to exist as long as good cops fear the bad cops and it’s not the other way around.

      I know the word hero get thrown around a little loosely these days, but if you perform an act worthy of the title, belonging to a union wouldn’t change it.

      1. exactly. i belong to a cop union. i’ve seen heroics from many officers who are also members. generally speaking, i see an institutional push towards cowardice, not heroics, though. the admin would far prefer we do nothing, than we do something heroic. it’s been a trend i’ve seen for many years, columbine and mardi gras seattle being two conspicious examples of this institutionalized cowardice.

        1. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

      2. Tricky-

        I am praising Serpico.

        1. without even logical consistency i might add. serpico was a union member his entire career

          hth

          1. dunphy-

            Let’s just borrow from Jesus and apply his parable to public employee union members-it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a cop to be a hero.

            1. You know that people can be in the union but not of it, right, Bibleman?

          2. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

          3. Serpico was in a wrong-to-work state.

  7. With the public outrage that exists against public employee unions and absurd compensation and pension packages for these types, why are people not putting ballot initiatives out there to abolish this theft?

    Have we all gotten so afraid of the police state we are approaching that we feel it is in our (personal) interest to just let these guys do whatever it is they’re going to do because they are the only ones that can keep us safe from our neighbors?

    I’m sorry, but stories like this make my blood boil. Not because of the corruption and manipulation of taxpayers by these public workers, but because the general populus lacks the common sense or courage to propose legislation that would put these people’s salaries, benefita and pensions in line with their private-sector counterparts (i.e.: security guards).

    As an added bonus, we would probably get a lot less alpha-dog types in this line of work whose sole purpose of becoming a cop was to exert his authority and power over society. We would also probably end up with less stops for window-tint that lead to tazering of 3 year olds because the cops we would have wouldn’t stop people just for kicks as often.

  8. Officers in other parts of the country really do need to pay closer attention to CA. At $61,911, Palange is selling himself short. The city of San Luis Obispo,Ca paid 2 police officers, who arrested for smuggling drugs in from Mexico, over $300,000 for 11 months of unpaid leave. (note this is in the same county that brought you “Sheriff Hedges and the arrest of Charles Lynch”)

  9. I see a gradual change happening in the general public’s attitude towards cops. More and more, the stereotype is now of of a grown-up Cartman “respect mah authoritah” type who receives ridiculous pension benefits. Even ten years ago, public safety was a uniformly winning issue in American politics, with both parties fighting to out-demagogue each other. While things obviously haven’t changed completely, I’m starting to see less public willingness to go along with whatever nonsense the police and prosecutorial lobbies want to do.

    1. It has taken a lot of time but they have managed to piss away most of their reputation. There has always been an undercurrent of disrespect to cops in entertainment. But it is much more mainstream now. And it is much easier to take on cops publicly than it once was.

      1. In a way, I see this loss of respect for law enforcement as a long-term effect of the War on Drugs, MADD’s war on alcohol, and the culture of “zero tolerance.”

        Twenty years ago, cops were still viewed by ‘respectable society’ primarily as a bulwark against the Bad People. The news media fed into this with the 11 o’clock news mentality of “if it bleeds, it leads.” People were scared into thinking there was a mugger, rapist or home-invasion burglar lurking behind every corner, and that the solution was Moar Police.

        However, Joe Average Citizen now fears the police every time he has a drink when dining out, or when he drives 66 in a 55 zone. Every stupid bar fight and yelling match now becomes a Law Enforcement Matter with Serious Consequences. When the average citizen views the police as an adversary, things start changing.

        1. please cite some evidnce for your claim.

          every single poll i have seen contradicts what you say. the public in general has very high respect for police. check http://www.pollingdata.com for example

          you are begging the question with “this loss of respect for law enforcement”

          joe average citizen does not fear the police every time he has a drink. the legal limit in my state is .08. one drunk won’t get you near there, unless you weigh under 100 lbs and then maybe.

          i expect logic from people in this blog. extrapolating YOUR opinion of the police as representative of the general public is not logic – it’s illogic

          again, cite some EVIDENCE for this alleged decrease in respect for police

          fwiw, as a cop myself my pension is “ok” at best. personally, i believe in the free market which is why i max out my deferred comp each year (15k of self directed investments) and don’t depend on it, or social security.

          our union negotiated some pretty sweet benefits, though. newsflash: unions advocate for their members, not for the public good. quite the opposite actually.

          it’s a fact no “progressive” will ever admit. to them, unions = good, corporations = bad. to many libertarians, the opposite is true. the reality is that neither are good or bad, they just are advocating for a specific set

          1. Logical consistency dictates that a public sector employee can not love the free market. If one did, one would not be feeding at the public trough.

            One who believes in the free market necessarily can not support unionism or support for the consfiscation of wealth in order to transfer the same to public employees.

          2. I’m speaking anecdotally and readily admit it. I’m not a pollster and don’t really give a shit enough about the issue to go around hunting evidence for you. Find it yourself.

            Oh, and your “pretty sweet benefits” are coming out of my taxpaying hide, so pardon me if I don’t get all wistful on your behalf.

          3. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

          4. “”joe average citizen does not fear the police every time he has a drink. the legal limit in my state is .08. one drunk won’t get you near there, unless you weigh under 100 lbs and then maybe.””

            I disagree some states have something called officer’s discretion, for something less than the legal limit.

            Sadly, you never know if you get a cop with an attitude. Me and some friends were pulled over years ago by three cop cars, one of the cops came to the driver’s side window and said “Ok boys, where’s the dope.” Pulled us out and searched us, and the car, then let us go. I kid you not, it’s funny as hell now. If it wasn’t for guys with guns, badges, and attitudes, it would have been funny then. I still don’t hold a negative opinion of cops in general. But if you hang around, you may get the impression that I do. The way I see it, if you do not report bad conduct, you’re part of the problem. But as you probably already know, reporting bad behavior is easier said than done.

            There are problems within the ranks. Cops with bad attitudes spoil it for the good ones. But the good ones will not turn a blind eye or stay slient to misconduct within the ranks. Therefore many on this board do not believe good ones exist. Cops need to be proactive about getting rid of the bad ones, but how can they when speaking out against corruption and bad behavior when “snitching” is not tolerated.

            The few bad cops screw it up for the good ones. The few screwing it up for the many is very present in the rest of society. Law enforcement isn’t exempt. I don’t like the idea that few can spoil it for everyone else but that’s the way it is.

            I think one thing is for certain, if you hang around here long enough, you opinion of us, or cops will change. Unless you hate us already. 😉

      2. I think the WOD has done a lot to ruin cops’ reputations. The whole “dynamic entry” model has become commonplace anymore, and that’s drawn the wrong sort of person to the job.

        1. evidence please. please cite evidence that the cops reputations have been ruined.

          outside this blog, i mean

          1. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

        2. oh also, as to dynamic entries being commonplace…

          what %age of warrant entries are done dynamically? do you know?

          if you only read stories about dynamic entries, it tends to skew your understanding

          1. what %age of warrant entries are done dynamically? do you know?

            Too fucking many, and no, there aren’t any stats on it because the cops make damn sure there aren’t.

          2. It is impossible to come up with stats when the police in Virginia absolutely refuse to release the reports.

          3. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

      3. “”It has taken a lot of time but they have managed to piss away most of their reputation.””

        A lot of NYC hated them until 9/11. Then merely being on the force = hero. But for they have erased much of that gain.

        I was chatting with someone about a certian hot topic issue involving lower Manhattan, he tried pulling the but I’m a retired “first responder” card and your offending me. So I ended the conversation.

        1. So I ended the conversation.

          If only it was so easy to hold them responsible for murder.

          1. darn that pesky jury system! we need guilt by declaration.

            if the grand poobah says you are guilty, it is so. trial this morning and sentence this afternoon!

            1. Yeah, that pesky jury that gets involved when internal affairs decides it was a completely justified killing. Got it.

            2. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

            3. “”darn that pesky jury system! we need guilt by declaration.””

              Well If I kill someone by mistake, I’m going to jail. If a cop kills someone by mistake, the odds are it will get filed under oops. Then if anyone pays in a civil suit, it’s the taxpayer.

              I’ve lived in NYC for 20 years. There are plenty of cases from me to pull from. I’ve seen three cop go to jail. One for using an illegal choke hold after he got an attitude becase a football hit his car. One for raping a guy with his nightstick, and the third for not reporting the cop raping a guy with his nightstick.

              I agree, that the opinion polls favor cops. But that doesn’t mean big problems don’t exist within the ranks. It needs to be cleaned up regardless of polls. What good cops there are shouldn’t have their badge sullied by bad guys that abuse the badge. That will not change until the bad cop fears the good cop instead of the other way around.

              1. If you belong to a union, you choose to be part of a collective bargaining unit; in other words, you choose the guild system; the closed shop and the rejection of the right of the individual to bargain with the employer.

                Its only worse with those who choose to be part of a public employee union because the communist mechanism of collective bargaining is used to confiscate the wealth of others. If one willingly, and in dunphy’s case, gleefully, particpates in, and derives benefits from, such looting, one, ipso facto, can not be a hero-unless one renounces such behavior and quits.

                The fact that some cop climbs up a tree and saves a cat does not make the parasite a hero.

                1. “”The fact that some cop climbs up a tree and saves a cat does not make the parasite a hero.””

                  Saving cat would not make a cop a hero in any true sense of the word, I thought I covered the term being used loosely already.

      4. evidence please. where is the evidence they have pissed away their rep. every poll i have seen does not support your conclusion

        1. every poll i have seen

          You misspelled “policeman’s cock.”

          1. you misspelled evasion

            again, where is the EVIDENCE for this alleged erosion?

            the polling data speaks otherwise

            but then of course facts don’t matter to ideologues

            1. Is this good enough?

              1. Or i could read my own link before looking like an idiot. Apparently dunphy is right, 50-80% of America absolutely LOVES Authoritah.

                Sucks to be the other 20-50% who’ve had their dogs shot.

                1. your cite supports my point. not yours

                  ?Between the 1980s and mid-1990s, increasing numbers of the American public gave police protection in their area a positive assessment.
                  ?Neighborhood residents hold both police and residents responsible for controlling crime in the neighborhood.
                  ?At the end of the 20th century, substantial majorities of the American public expressed positive views of how police treat the public. Police ranked highest in being helpful and friendly and lowest in treating people fairly.
                  ?The public image of honesty and ethical standards of police has fluctuated over the years but has improved substantially from 1977 to 2000.

                  1. Jeez, dunphy, got anything newer than 10 years ago?

                  1. much better. especially the gallup one

                2. props to you : “apparently dunphy is right”

                  i gotta give you credit for intellectual honesty. it is a rarity on the internet.

                  whatever YOU think of da cops , the statistical reality is that the public at large overwhelmingly respect us.

                  heck, *i* as a cop have more criticism of the average cop and the system we work under than most people

                  1. 50-80% is an “overwhelming majority”?

                    I guess Bush and Obama also won their respective elections with “landslides”?

                  2. i gotta give you credit for intellectual honesty. it is a rarity on the internet.

                    This rings kind of hollow from a man who redefined the word “electrocution” to defend a killer.

                  3. I wonder how many people polled have had police contact, or are just expressing their opinion because they watch Law and Order?

              2. lol. no, it’s not GOOD ENOUGH since it refutes your claim

                a person interested in reason and logic changes their beliefs given evidence

                are you able to do the same?

                again, i asked for evidence for the claims you and others are making, and you in fact provide evidence that you are WRONG

                thanks for the help

                1. yeah, i got that the 1st link i pulled sorta refutes my claim (though, only having 50-80% of the publics’ respect isnt exactly shining evidence to me.)

                  I’m a biased ideologue with absolutely zero respect for the police, so I can go fuck myself, right?

                  1. “20-50% who’ve had their dogs shot”

                    That’s idiotic. You need to lay off the Balko.

                    1. Obviously cops haven’t shot that many dogs, they couldn’y possibly hope to make those numbers with their limited funding and manpower. Thanks for taking it literally though.

                    2. If you don’t want to be taken “literally,” go somewhere else and stop wasting people’s time.

            2. Hey Dunphy, ever see a fellow cop commit a crime? If so, did you arrest him?

              BTW, I have to go now, but let me know if this pig fucker ever answers my question. Thanks.

      5. It helps that video is everywhere. Before, you had to rely on accusations, and the accusations almost always came from alleged criminals (if only because busting witnesses to police misconduct would help diminish their credibility). Since most Americans right-of-center are skeptical about the claims of criminals, who are often not the most trustworthy folks, cops had tentative support. Knowing that they would not be believed, many victims probably stayed silent altogether.

        Now, however, those claims of corruption, incompetence, and abuse are increasingly being backed up with footage, and things the police could have swept under the rug are coming to light.

        Of course, it also means their reputation is diminished among the people that are likely to encounter these videos on the internet. Your grandma might still think highly of cops.

  10. An astonishing 80 percent of 2010 FDNY retirees have qualified for disability benefits

    Due to 9/11 they have a lifetime immunity from criticism.

  11. the petulant fearmongering

    Not at all. I’ve said it before: when we start firing cops, either due to reprehensible behavior or just to save money, they’re going to turn to crime. Bust into peoples houses and wreck up the place. Shoot their dogs, confiscate their shit, and be on their way.

    So, fearmongering? Nah. It’s a promise, not a threat…

    1. Shoot their dogs, confiscate their shit

      But don’t take your words “literally.”

  12. No wonder Reading had an eleven million deficit last year, when they are throwing money away like this.

  13. “Shoot their dogs, confiscate their shit

    But don’t take your words “literally.””

    Actually, -, I think you can take his words literally and you would be right. I don’t know about the dog shooting, but I’d be willing to bet a large % of the people that don’t have a positive view of the police have had their shit confiscated. As anyone who has ever been pulled over and treated like garbage and then found out that little speeding violation of 8 mph over is gonna cost them upwards of $300 feels like their money has been confiscated. Especialy so when they show up to court and the policeman’s word is taken as the gospel truth (even if it is full of lies and half-truths) and you are convicted without proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Oh, and God forbid you get pulled over after walking out of a bar at 2:00 am in a mid-sized town. Of course, the cops line their cars up like a cab stand at JFK airport and follow about every third car based on the way someone walks out of a bar and then tailgate them with their hi-beams on until the guy goes “left of center,” the impossible to disprove probable cause they need to make the stop.

    Dude, really. The vast majority of people who have a negative view of police are most likely the ones who have been subject to their selective enforcement, their selective truth in court or their selective restraint based on how they feel at any given time.

    1. The vast majority of people who have a negative view of police are most likely the ones who have been subject to their selective enforcement, their selective truth in court or their selective restraint based on how they feel at any given time.

      Agreed. That’s why the numbers are rising. It’s been said many times, the civil rights movement did nothing to curb police abuse, it just made it equal opportunity. Though, I will add that regular social interaction with many of the power-tripping douches can also breed a justifiable negative view.

  14. The deficit has been deified? Will be tough to get rid of now.

  15. If you don’t want to be taken “literally,” go somewhere else and stop wasting people’s time.

  16. That’s idiotic. You need to lay off the Balko.

  17. http://www.burberryscarveshop.com/
    here are lots of nice quality burberry scarves at a discount price for you.

  18. we are specialize in lots o nice burberry scarves at a good discount. great welcome everyone order from us.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.