Rioting Is a Threat to Public Safety. Police Unions Are a Worse One.

How much does a lack of police accountability and transparency contribute to the anger that helps turn protests violent?



Protests in Baltimore over the Freddie Gray's unexplained death while in police custody from a fatal spine injury are turning violent. As usual, authorities blame outsiders for the violence, a spurious claim.

In a press conference Saturday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the city "gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well." Today, her spokesperson insisted the mayor didn't mean she give room for vandals to destroy, but that in providing space for peaceful protests, space is inevitably provided, too, for rioters. Another spurious claim.

Nevertheless, it ought to go without saying that assaulting residents and destroying residential or commercial property has nothing to do with the cause of police reform. Perhaps the destruction of police property does, and there's been a bit of that too. Authorities say at least seven cops have been injured so far.

The protests turned violent this weekend, about a week after Freddie Gray's death. Initially protests were exclusively peaceful. But at that time, the police union compared protesters to a "lynch mob" because some protesters were allegedly calling for the six officers involved in Gray's arrest, who have been suspended with pay, to be "imprisoned immediately." The union, of course, insisted there had been no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the officers.

Yet there are still few answers as to why Gray died. Those who could provide answers—the six cops involved—have union privileges that protect them from answering questions about Gray's death immediately. In fact they have 10 days to do so. It's a frustrating reality. Someone is dead and the people who could be responsible, and who are in fact charged with enforcing the law on the rest of us, aren't having the law enforced on them in the same way. Not only that, but after someone died while in their custody, they continue to draw paychecks paid for by city taxpayers.

None of this justifies violence against residents or the destruction of personal or commercial property, but it should provide some perspective as to why there's so much anger. That anger, in turn, provides cover to the kind of element that would enjoy a good riot whether or not that anger existed. There are people who would riot given any excuse—it's why riots are so common after sports championships, and the kind of anger elicited by the total lack of accountability for the death of Freddie Gray provides similar cover.

Incidents of police violence tend to become so controversial because of the lack of accountability and transparency even when the incidents may not be questionable.  In many jurisdictions, thanks to union and other protections, it's very difficult to fire a cop.

Last year, a former Baltimore police officer sued the police department for allegedly failing to protect him when he tried to report a fellow officer for brutality. The city of Baltimore hasn't acknowledged a problem exists but is instead fighting the allegations in court. City council meetings about the Baltimore police tend to be full of complaints about the police department. Baltimore's political leaders insist they are improving the police department and have in the past been resentful of residents who question that claim.

But the city is limited in what it can do to improve its police department, largely because of the union rules protecting cops. It took three years (!) for the department to be able to fire a cop who berated a teenaged skateboarder in an incident caught on video.

Are the six officers who arrested Freddie Gray criminally responsible for his death? That's up to a judge and jury to decide. But the absence of a conviction should not preclude termination. Baltimore's mayor appeared to claim police-community relations were improving prior to Gray's death. That's doubtful. Firing the cops involved in his death, rather than giving them a paid vacation, could go a long way to improving those relations. Union protections prevent it. Requiring the cops involved in Gray's death to answer investigators' questions immediately might've gone a long way to prevent today's violence. Union protections prevent it.

The union called peaceful protesters a "lynch mob" days before the first protester hurled the first rock at a Baltimore cop. How much has the Baltimore police union contributed to the current situation in Baltimore. And if police union rules prevent the city from dismissing bad cops or cops whose actions harm police-community relations, aren't they a threat to public safety? 

NEXT: New Study Indicates New York Might Be Better Off Cooling it With Petty Ticketing of Citizens

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  1. Being a Minister of Defence isn’t what is used to be.

    I want the BPD’s guts for garters!

    1. That there line sounds as if it may have been uttered in a James Bond flick.

      1. Yes!…..erick_Gray

        Bond holds a private discussion with Gray, to whom he refers as “Freddie”.

        1. Thanks.

  2. No doubt, riots are what a breach of the social contract looks like. Even the American Revolution started out, more or less, as a riot.

    I wouldn’t only blame the police for riots like this, though. I think we need to be more specific than that. The problem is that police unions are so thoroughly ensconced in the Democratic Party machines that run our cities that the politicians who are supposed to be overseeing our police are actually beholden to the police unions for their support in elections.

    Imagine the frustration if you’re a targeted minority, and there is no realistic hope of reform so long as the Democratic machine remains in power–but the Democratic machine is the only game in town.

    Blame the rioters. Blame the police. But let’s not forget the public employee unions. Let’s not forget the police unions and the Democrats who are supposed to oversee them but actually depend on police unions to get elected. That’s the real problem. We’re never going to see rogue cops held personally responsible the way they should be so long as the police unions remain as powerful and influential as they are in our cities.

    I’d like to think Scott Walker might have something worthwhile to say about that.

    1. Rand-Walker 2016?

      1. There was one particular public employee union that Walker did not take on in Wisconsin. Sure, on pragmatic grounds, one can understand the decision not to take them all on at once.

    2. The same Scott Walker who carefully excluded police unions from his collective-bargaining reforms in 2011?

      1. Come on, there are principled stands one can take, and then there are absurd stupid stands that result in your own death.

        Scott taking on the police union would have been the latter.

        1. I won’t argue that, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence in him ever “saying something worthwhile” about the relationship police unions have on politics until perhaps sometime during his second term as President, and even then probably not.

    3. IIRC Monsieur Walker skilfully avoided angering the police unions and he has a hard-on for crime and punishment. Don’t get your hopes up.

      1. He also is supporting the crony-capitalist cum socialist public financing of the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena.

        1. But of course he is

      2. Yeah, I’d like to think Walker might have something to say about that, but the solution to police unions running our cities isn’t going to come from any politician.

        It’s going to have to come from the grass roots.

        Unfortunately, the grass roots in our cities have come to imagine that the Democratic Party is the solution to their problems–although some of them are starting to see that the Teachers’ unions aren’t the solution to the problems with their schools. Maybe they’ll get a hint from that and start to see that the Democrats they expect to protect them from police abuse are actually in the police unions’ pockets–and that’s the problem.

        We can only hope. Wish we could do more. Maybe Rand will talk to them. They’re certainly not going to hear about it from their own leaders–or the progressives that dominate both the national and their local media.

        1. I think you’re seeing the beginnings of that now

        2. Look up the “Battle of Athens”, 1946.

    4. “The problem is that police unions are so thoroughly ensconced in the Democratic Party machines that run our cities”

      This is not new. I doubt like hell that any political machine, of either Party, has managed to hold sway anywhere in the United States without the connivance of a corrupt police force that the machine in turn protected. The Police Unions are dimly a front that gives the machine politicians deniability.

      Of course the modern Progressives will deny, to whatever degree they think possible, that any Democrat machines still exist. But this is because the Progressives that are not delusional are dishonest.

  3. Pharmacy set on fire. Starting to burn the bitch down. 8-(

    1. Baltimore pharmacy? They’re burning down the street corner?

      1. Yep. Police trying to protect the fire fighters.

        1. Not going to end well.

          1. I expect the area will be a cosmetics desert soon.

          2. Relax. The looters got all of the Schedule II meds before the fire. That could have been a disaster.

            1. They also got lots of liquor to wash ’em down. On to the Inner Harbor!

  4. Yeah, blah, blah, blah…

    SPACE BUDDHA!!!!!!!

    1. Does space Buddha beat aqua Buddha?

  5. You know, cops showing up to protests in riot gear doesn’t help matters. They’re really asking for it when they dress like that.

    1. At least it’s not rape-rape.

      1. Never gets old

    2. Fuck em. And the worst part is all those steroids ruin the meat. Your Future Reptilian Overlords will have to build massive slow cookers just to be able to consume these over-dressed mammals

      1. Steroids ruin meat? Better not eat any beef anytime soon.

        *injects some sweet, sweet Trenbolone*

        1. Trenbologne? Is that how processed meat is made?

  6. The mask, it slips.

  7. You know who else was a threat to public safety…?

    Skeletor. The answer is Skeletor.

    1. I was gonna guess “Godzilla”.

      1. No Ken, the broken windows and property damage he causes are such a boon to economic activity that he is never considered a threat.

      1. Get it right you blithering nincompoop.

      2. I think this is the first time I’ve witnessed a sugarfree’d link in real time.

        Heavy, man.

        1. Yeah, I had stopped for so long. And they pulled me back in.

          1. Just like old times *wipes tear*

        2. Glorious, isn’t it? Oh wait, I mean repellent.

    2. Wil Wheaton has Skeletor read angry tweets on his show.

      1. One of the funnier parts of that show. I’m not surprised you watch, JJ. Wesley was always your role model.

        1. Joke’s on you, loser – I saw it in the sidebar of the youtube video you linked to.

          Though I did sleep with Wil when I did my ST guest appearance in season 1’s “Code of Honor”.

          Fun fact: the episode was going to be a rather pedestrian re-hashing of “Amok Time”, but after the re-writes that I mandated for my appearance, I quite satisfactorily turned it into a racist piece of shit.

          1. I think I blocked that episode out. It looks terrible. Of course you’re associated with it, JJ.

    3. The Zentradi? The Invid? The Robotech Masters?

  8. How many people do police kill a year in Baltimore? I’m guessing it’s a lot less than the 200 people killed by Baltimore citizens.

    Until people are as outraged by murders not committed by the police, there is going to be a need for the police, and thus ultimately police unions.

    If you want to rein in police, the best way is to rein in the need for police

    1. All the more reason to decriminalize drug use and distribution, along with a slew of other criminal offenses that need not be. Sunlight is the best antiseptic for the primary catalyst of inner-city murders, the black market drug trade.

    2. I can understand why people have less outrage about violent criminals killing each other. Which I assume makes up most of the murders in Baltimore. And that won’t get better until we get som significant reform of drug policy and welfare policy.
      I’m not sure why police can’t exist without unions. Or at least without union contracts.

    3. The beatings will continue until morale improves

    4. Hey idiot, how much do Baltimore residents pay in tax to non-police murders? Oh that’s right ZERO DOLLARS.

      Until people are as outraged by murders not committed by the police, there is going to be a need for the police, and thus ultimately police unions.

      There’s not a single fucking part of this that makes any sense. Under no circumstances do we need police unions.

      1. Without police unions police officers could have the potential to pass annual physical fitness tests, and that just cannot be allowed to happen.

      2. Not zero at all. They pay taxes to support people on welfare, who have kids they can’t properly support or raise, who more often grow up to be criminals. Plus the extra insurance costs, etc.

        1. Completely irrelevant. I pay cops to do their jobs. I don’t pay criminals to commit crime you moron. Do you ever think? Were you dropped as a child?

          1. Didn’t your mother ever teach you manners? Are you simply incapable of civil disagreement?

  9. So we’ve had two major racially motivated riots during Obama’s term.

    1. Way more than that.

  10. OT: Store price discriminates based on gender
    And nothing else happened.
    Oh goodie:

    Schlenker plans to take the shop on the road to other cities in the U.S.

    So it’s basically an Art project. Sulkowicz-approved!!

    Elana Schlenker: I’m a graphic designer

    No shit! I figured you for an economist, nobel prize winning at that!

    1. And, Tesla “discriminates” based on income levels.

      I want my Model S!

  11. Lots of pics in the Daily Fail.…..neral.html

    1. Everyone seems to be stealing TP. It’s official, Baltimore is the Venezuela of the North.

      1. Yes. The TP thefts are very funny. Eljjah Cummings and Jesse Jackson are there! You would think they would be telling everyone to calm down. I mean, Jesse Jackson is the king of all black people.

    2. Pringles and iced tea, I get. But is that dude holding a package of maxipads?

      1. Honey, I need you to stop at the store and loot me some tampax.

      2. Now that is think about it, they probably make a good field dressing.

        1. Now that is think about it, they probably make a good field dressing.

          I seriously doubt that dude subscribes to Patriot Nurse.

      3. I had a camp counselor once explain to me that that maxipads are a godsend on days that you have a real bad hangover and the shits where “you fart and a little slips out”. That’s an actual, true story. This same counselor once grabbed a kid’s head, exclaimed “suck this fart!” and pushed the kid’s head down and farted in his face. I almost died laughing. What?!? It was funny!

        So you see, there’s no reason a dude wouldn’t want some maxipads.

        1. You learn the best things at camp.

        2. I had a camp counselor…This same counselor once grabbed a kid’s head…

          Ah, yes-YMCA Summer camp.

          1. Ah, but it’s fun to stay at the YMCA summer camp!

  12. Per my Twitter feed: BREAKING: MD Gov. @LarryHogan has declared a state of emergency, activated National Guard. #BaltimoreRiots

  13. You Know Who Else declared a state of emergency in Baltimore?

    1. …was it…Skeletor…?

    2. The owner of the Colts?

    3. Some crown-wearing British dude?

  14. The City Council should reequire the police chief to station two cops in front of every store in the neighborhood. At least they would be doing something useful, protecting and serving, rather than breaking people’s spines. They could have one of their paddy wagons deliver coffee and donuts to those protecting stores so the cops wouldn’t have to spend their usual fours of every shift inside a donut shop.

  15. So, the moral of this story is, if you are a criminal, all you need to do is elect union representation. Then, all of your worries of prosecution are over.

    I can see it now: “Bloods elect Teamsters to represent them. The Crips opt for AFSCME”.

  16. Starting Free, free, free. Unbelievable, but true. Register free and get your Bicoins for FREEEEEE!!! No questions and no excuses. Again! It?s free. Yes, free. No risk. Just fun.
    It?s free………. http://www.MoneyKin.Com

  17. uptil I looked at the paycheck which was of $6898 , I have faith …that…my father in law was actually erning money parttime from their computer. . there neighbor had bean doing this for less than nine months and at present cleard the loans on there apartment and got a great new Nissan GT-R:…… ??????

  18. Not only that, but after someone died while in their custody, they continue to draw paychecks paid for by city taxpayers.

    This is a point Reason loves to harp on. What’s a better idea? Do we believe in due process? Do we believe in innocent until proven guilty? It seems to me the only REASONABLE course is the middle ground: Take potentially dangerous officers off the street with a suspension, but protect their rights by not assuming guilt.

    1. I’m always amazed by the amount of people who don’t really understand what innocent until proven guilty means. It only applies to legal proceedings. People still have the right to have an opinion on your guilt or innocence and your employer still has a right to fire you simply for being arrested for a crime. It’s as much a right of an employer to fire someone who is reflecting badly on their organization as it is as right for a criminal to be “innocent until proven guilty” in a court of law.

    2. Also, the Baltimore police department suspends officer without pay for killing dogs, but not people apparently. The Baltimore cop who sliced the dogs throat, suspended without pay. The Baltimore cop who beat his girlfriend’s puppy to death with a mop, suspended without pay. Both of these cops should have been “innocent until proven guilty” by your standards, but the police dept had no problem suspending them without pay. Maybe the people of Baltimore are tired of dogs being more important than people to the police unions. In addition, one of the cops who killed Freddie Gray had been charged with domestic violence multiple times. If that cop was a football player in Baltimore he would have lost his job for beating up his girlfriend, but since he’s a cop he got to keep his job without even a suspension. You can’t play football if you’re violent against your own loved ones, but you can still be a cop.

  19. Police Departments Have a Pre-Tailhook Mentality and That Must Change

  20. What is the difference between “police” and “domestic terrorism”? Absolutely none.

  21. I wish someone would write an article about how in Baltimore Ray Rice was fired for beating up his girlfriend, but Lieutenant Brian Rice was arrested twice for beating up his girlfriend and allowed to continue being a police officer who went on to kill Freddie Gray. How does it make any sense a one Rice isn’t allowed to play football because he abuses his girlfriend, but another man named Rice can beat up his girlfriend, more than once, have restraining orders against him and he’s still allowed to be a police officer? Lieutenant Brian Rice wasn’t even suspended after his two arrests for domestic violence! This is an insane double standard and needs to be public addressed immediately!

  22. my roomate’s half-sister makes $71 /hr on the computer . She has been laid off for 5 months but last month her pay was $17321 just working on the computer for a few hours
    …… ??????

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