Police Abuse

Black Lives Matter Targets Police Union Contracts, Launches CheckthePolice.org

Activists collecting and analyzing police union contracts from around the country.


Tony Webster/flickr

In September, activists associated with Black Lives Matter, a decentralized movement agitating for police reforms, launched Campaign Zero, a set of policy initiatives I called a "great framework" to use to push the cause of reform.

While Campaign Zero did not get as much media coverage as people and events far less directly related to Black Lives Matter, the set of policy proposals was a first step to a solution, not a last one. Campaign Zero focused on 10 initiatives:

1) End Broken Windows Policing, 2) Community Oversight, 3) Limit Use of Force, 4) Independently Investigate & Prosecute, 5) Community Representation, 6) Body Cameras, 7) Training, 8) End for-profit policing, 9) Demilitarization, 10) Fair police union contracts. 

Building on the work of Campaign Zero, Black Lives Matter activists have launched CheckthePolice.org, a website dedicated to the last, and perhaps most important, initiative‚ÄĒrolling back some of the most egregious privileges police unions have negotiated into their contracts.

CheckthePolice.org explains how police contracts block accountability:

  • Preventing police officers from being interrogated immediately after being involved in an incident
  • Preventing information on past misconduct investigations from being recorded or retained in an officer's personnel file
  • Disqualifying misconduct complaints that are submitted 180+ days after an incident or that take over 1 year to investigate
  • Limiting civilian oversight structures from being given the authority to discipline officers for misconduct

Black Lives Matter activists have also collected and analyzed police contracts from the 100 largest cities in the United States, which is how they arrived at the conclusions above.

Black Lives Matter also found more provisions that make accountability and reform difficult, noting many contracts:

  • Mandate paid leave for officers who kill
  • Prevent anonymous complaints from being investigated
  • Restrict the amount of time an officer can be interrogated for misconduct
  • Protect the identities of violent officers from public scrutiny
  • Require cities to pay for misconduct settlements
  • Prevent civilian oversight structures from being able to interrogate or subpoena officers

Libertarians have been talking about police abuse and police reform for decades. Many of the most effective solutions, involving increased accountability and less special privileges for cops, are libertarian ones. The mainstream analysis of police brutality in the last year and a half, since events in Ferguson propelled the issue into the national news cycle, may not be particularly libertarian.

But the solutions remain so, and the work Black Lives Matter is doing to arrive at policy solutions based on observing the situation on the ground and examining how previous policies have influenced that situation bares that out as more and more of their solutions sound distinctly libertarian in nature.

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  1. Finally they’re doing something useful, most excellent.

    Maybe they could link up with the Kochs and the right-wing union haters in a joint attack on these union contracts?

    1. Or maybe they could encourage the voters in these cities to reject any political party which is beholden to public sector unions?

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA, oh, my, HA HA HA HA HA HA [gasp] HA HA HA HA HA

      1. In fairness, both TEAMS are beholden to “public safety” unions…

        1. True. The the Dems give spinal-reflex support to police unions because they’re police unions and the Repubs give sipinal-reflex support to them because they’re police unions.

  2. Prevent anonymous complaints from being investigated

    I fucking hate anonymous complaints. They should never be the basis for investigating anyone, including cops.

    1. +1 anonymous woodchippers

    2. Sounds good as long as the cops don’t get the names of the people who complain.

      Right to confront your accuser is important, and must hold if any charges come from the complaint. But I don’t trust the police not to be thin-skinned pricks who will punish anyone no showing them appropriate deference.

      1. Retaliation is only a problem in a system that lacks accountability. If the system punishes retaliation, anonymity shouldn’t be a concern. If a system doesn’t have accountability, then anonymous complaints aren’t going to magically create it.

    3. Eh, when it comes to allegations of police misconduct, I don’t think this is a bad thing.

      Police officers look out for their own. If you file a complaint against one, it’s highly doubtful your name/address won’t get passed around; perhaps the next time you need the services of your 911 responders, they’ll take a little longer getting to you (but, you know, not so long to be actually provable that they have a grudge).

  3. Wasn’t broken windows policing showed to work, and contributed to the massive decline in violence for New York City in the 90s?

    1. The actual efficacy of Broken Windows versus already plummeting crime rates is a topic of some debate.

      1. fair enough. Shouldn’t all crimes be punished though? Just cause you’re some low level punk tagging up a subway car doesn’t mean you should get off

        1. Except that cops and prosecutors use their resources to go after the low-hanging fruit that they might be able to scrape some asset forfeitures off of instead of going after major crimes like murders, assaults, and middling to minor property crimes that would require them to do some actual police work.

          1. They’ve also used it as an excuse to go after low-level vandals and pot users while 2 blocks away, the guy that everybody in the neighborhood knows is a gang leader doesn’t get any attention from the heroes in blue. This undermines any ability of the cops to develop a rapport with the folks in the neighborhoods that could provide info on the real criminals. The cops are rightly seen as bullies who go after low level offenders and ignore the real cancer in the neighborhood.

            1. The cops stopped going after gang bangers in about ’92. Look at the drop in murder rates. Since gang slots stayed filled longer – murder to rise in the gang declined.

              In about ’86 the police took out a whole gang in my city. The murder rate went up. The FBI said that was expected. The citizens were not pleased. It has never happened again.

            2. Let me add that the police do go after the worst actors. They do not go after gangs.

        2. And what should be crimes? Maybe you should answer that question first.

          1. Harming other people or their property. “Broken windows” should only include that – not “jaywalking” or other BS used to stop and harass.

            1. “Oh lookie here, suspected cannabis! Looks like I can fuck with you all I want!”

          2. vandalism and other attacks against property, or harming individuals. The case studies for broken windows are subway turnstile jumpers and tagging public property.

        3. Shouldn’t all crimes be punished though?

          Define “crime”.

          I would think victimless crimes shouldn’t even exist, let alone have punishments. Yet they have the most enforcement.

    2. Coming out of the crackhead 80s and into a hot 90s economy helped.

    3. correlation… causation…

  4. Mostly good stuff but “broken windows policing” isn’t just “stop ‘n’ frisk” even though that is now the association that many have. Ending broken windows typically also implies ignoring such things. as pissing in an alley or fare-beating

    1. “Broken windows” seems like a really broad concept. It’s kind of hard to say that “it works”, full stop. More likely some aspects of it work and some don’t.
      Cracking down on fare beating might discourage scofflaws in many areas. Pissing in alleys is just part of the urban charm, though, isn’t it? Where are you supposed to piss when there aren’t trees everywhere?

  5. “a decentralized movement”


    1. “a decentralized movement agitating for police reforms”

      Well, partly.

  6. Require cities to pay for misconduct settlements

    Changing this one thing could do more to effect cops’ approach to use of force than all other reforms put together.

    1. I confess I don’t get it. By “cities” don’t they mean taxpayers, and aren’t I already paying for the mistakes that other people make in this regard?

      1. Currently misconduct settlements come out of municipal coffers. The alternative would be to take the damages out of the officer’s pay, or better yet the police union’s war chest.

        1. I think they mean insurance companies shouldn’t pay.

    2. Oh, I think I get it. Maybe. The presumption in the passage is that cops or the union pay them?

      1. Exactly. Hit the cops in their wallets and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they quit rough riding people. Hit the unions where they live and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the Blue Wall of Silence crumbles.

        1. Will the Blue Wall of Silence make noise when it crumbles? Asking for a friend.

          1. Tell your friend that koan was meant to focus his meditation. And if his sensei heard of him trying to cheat an answer, he’d beat the shit out of him.

  7. Attaching their name to this endeavor will only entrench law & order conservatives.

    1. Or it might peel some away.

  8. Community oversight and representation?

    They shouldn’t beat around the bush, just ask the police to leave.

  9. Semi on-topic:

    A friend of mine just became a Metro bus-driver. He showed me a video of a driver hitting a passenger (who refused to get off the bus) over the back of the head with a wheel-chock, then dragged his ass out to the bench on the street and commenced to wail on him for a good full minute.

    Bus driver kept his job. Video evidence is inadmissible when arbitrating a driver’s incident.

    If I were a member of the county council, I’d be sending that driver a thank you card with a dozen roses. All of those lawsuits never go into the budget process where the Council gets to scream “CUTS!!1!!ELEVENTY!” while raising our taxes.

    1. Sounds like a pitch for a new Jason Statham movie: Transporter XVI – Mass Transit.

  10. Let’s just sit back and watch the Dems figure out how to pander to both BLM and the Unions.

    1. Unions pay for elections, #BLM doesn’t– it’s just a bunch of scrappy activists, most of whom will vote Democrat (I’d bet) come the general. I suspect there won’t be an ounce of pandering to #BLM on this issue.

    2. They’ll pander to both. They’ll keep the bad union contracts but cater to BLM on, say, “Community Representation” (i.e., black cops and black police chiefs), maybe throw a few scapegoat cops to the wolves, hire the BLM activists as “Officer of Community engagement blah blah,” and then tell black people to vote for Democrats or else Republicans will sell them to the Koch Brothers. And the BLM people will vote the straight Dem ticket.

    3. They’re pretty great at talking out of both sides of their mouth, they demonize Wall Street and the wealthy yet still receive their donations.

    4. BTW, what you’ll see is a lot of throat clearing and “data gathering”– all designed to see if those danged officers are being racist. Ie, how racist are those derned officers being when they give someone a beatdown.

      The legislation, titled the Tracking Reputations Upgrades Societal Trust (TRUST) act, would add new questions specifically focused on trust in law enforcement to be asked during the annual National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

      The bill’s sponsors say that the results of those new survey questions would allow the Justice Department to provide resources and tailor policy recommendations to communities where trust is low.

      The reason they’re going to collect data, is collecting data is something they CAN do and requires a new department and government jobs to manage and interpret the data.


    5. OOO Ooo Ooo, I know!!!!

      Ignore BLM, and pander to the Unions. You need that sweet, sweet union cash flow even if the checks are smaller than they were in the past. In addition, BLM members will continue to pull the lever for Team Blue regardless of whether the Dems have earned it.

  11. increased accountability and less special privileges for cops

    Taking usage lessons from ENB, Ed?


    1. Uh, I think the rule is that if you can count them it’s fewer.

  12. If number 1 isn’t “end the War on Drugs” they aren’t serious or smart.

    1. Enlightenment doesn’t always happen all at once. Starting down a constructive path with some tangible goals is a good step. Hopefully they stick with it and team up with some like minded folks.

  13. How about calls to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights laws that many states have?

    For example, unlike the way common citizens are treated by police:
    “Law enforcement officers cannot be threatened, harassed, or promised rewards to induce the answering of any question.”

    1. I remember that video of the cop, trying to get a “voluntary” confession from a suspect chained to a wall – the suspect was charged with neglect in the death of his infant child, a charge for which he was ultimately acquitted. But the cop was berating the suspect and suggesting he (suspect) was an “animal” – then suspect lunges to the length of his chain and cop (in what the jury later suggested could have been reasonable self-defense) beat up on the suspect.

      All in the name of getting a voluntary statement.

      Yet cops who kill are to be given kid gloves treatment.

  14. Many of the most effective solutions, involving increased accountability and less special privileges for cops including the most effective one being the private production of security, are libertarian ones.

  15. Non-leftists mucking about with this BLM bunch ought to be quite cautious. BLM’ers will have no problem with bad policing as long as they are in charge of them.

    As well, the quicker the racial component is removed from this issue the better. Real reform, and placing a much needed boot on the neck of cops will come about when you start with the basics, such as traffic cops.

  16. To heck with the stupid cops!


    1. You misspelled “fucking Hell”.

  17. Maybe BLM should get together with the black community activists who agitated for massive additional policing.

    Instead you get assholes like Jesse Jackson asking for more police and then complaining about there being so many police.

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