Public Unions

Police, Teachers Unions Protect Workers at Expense of Public

It's how their rules were made to work.

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America's public school systems are notorious for their rubber rooms. That's where teachers deemed unfit to work in a classroom pass the time as their disciplinary actions or terminations move through the convoluted system. This can take years, and while it does, the teachers collect their full paychecks as they twiddle their thumbs. It's a vestige of our union-dominated school system, which has so many protections (for teachers, not kids) that it's nearly impossible to fire bad actors.

America's police agencies don't have rubber rooms, but they have a situation that's equally disturbing. They have lists—often long ones—of officers found to have engaged in "moral turpitude." These are referred to as Brady lists, which refers to a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Brady v. Maryland) in which the prosecution withheld evidence favorable to the defendant in a murder trial. The court ruled that prosecutors must provide the defense with any such relevant information.

"Subsequent case law has decreed that an arresting or witnessing officer's past record for certain work performance deficiencies including moral turpitude is a factor which might impair the officer's credibility on the witness stand" and therefore also needs to be disclosed, according to an October 2016 letter that Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell sent to approximately 300 deputies whose personnel files may include such disclosable information.

This includes "founded administrative investigations" involving immoral conduct; bribes, gifts and favors; misappropriation of property; tampering with evidence; false statements and the failure to make statements during internal-affairs investigations. The lists also include those accused of police brutality and domestic violence.

These are serious allegations that, in a sane system, could lead to an officer's firing. But these officers remain on the job even though their past behavior could undermine the veracity of the criminal cases prosecutors are pursuing.

This Brady issue was in the news in late June when a man convicted of a drug charge after a traffic stop sought a new trial. The man is arguing that prosecutors violated his rights by not telling the defense that the officer who testified in the case "had previously been found liable by a federal jury in a civil lawsuit accusing him and other deputies of using false evidence or false testimony in a man's arrest," according to a Los AngelesTimes report. The courts have yet to decide whether civil verdicts need to be disclosed.

McDonnell wants to hand over his Brady list to the district attorney's office, so they can be included in the database of "problem officers." The information could then be disclosed under court rules. But the union representing deputy sheriffs "argues that the disclosure would violate state laws protecting officer personnel files and draw unfair scrutiny on deputies whose mistakes might have happened long ago," according to a separate Los Angeles Times story, which notes that California grants officers the most wide-ranging police privacy protections in the nation. The appeals court agreed with the union in a February decision temporarily blocking the release of the names.

The state's Peace Officers' Bill of Rights is one stumbling block to their release. So, too, is the state Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Copley Press v. County of San Diego. The Copley decision, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, has "effectively shut off all avenues for the public to learn about misconduct involving individual police officers, such as excessive force and dishonesty; officer-involved shootings; patterns of misconduct and leniency; previous discipline for misconduct by another agency; and even the identity of officers in misconduct cases."

Here again the comparison to the public-education system is relevant. The state's rules, advanced by public-sector unions and by their allied legislators, are designed to protect the public employee rather than the citizen. This has resulted in some costly workarounds. McDonnell's letter pointed out that his department is considering several policies to address the problem, ranging "from instituting special working conditions (e.g., mandated recording of all public contacts), to restricting employees from performing certain tasks."

Salon noted that some counties such as San Francisco "have gotten around the disclosure law by keeping lists of officers' names that have no additional information about what those officers have done." But this means that the police department can only tell "the DA's office it should investigate the files of certain officers" or that the defense must "make a motion for the judge to review the personnel file and determine if it contains anything relevant."

Only a small percentage of officers are problems. The Times explains that the Los Angeles County list involves just 3 percent of its 9,100 officers. But a Chicago Police Department study shows that a tiny percentage of officers cause the preponderance of costly lawsuits and settlements. Put another way, a small number of bad cops can cause a lot of problems for taxpayers, as those costly settlements show, and for the civil rights of the people who encounter these officers. Police misconduct has also resulted in courts throwing out the convictions of serious criminals, which ends up endangering the public.

In the 2014 education-related Vergara decision, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu tossed California's system of tenure and other teacher protections because they threaten the constitutional rights of those students subjected to the bad teachers.

The judge wrote that an expert called by defendants found that 1 percent to 3 percent of the state's approximately 275,000 public-school teachers are "grossly ineffective." That means somewhere between 2,750 and 8,250 such teachers are in the classroom, which leads to a "direct, real, appreciable, and negative impact on a significant number of California students." The judge also found that it takes two to 10 years to dismiss a teacher, and costs the district $50,000 to $450,000 to bring these cases to a close. The case was overturned by an appeals court and the appeals decision was not reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

There's no apparent study showing the negative effect of bad police officers on the public and the taxpayer, but a similar dynamic is at work. The problem is simple. Legislators have put union protections above public protections. In teaching and policing, there may be only a relatively small number of bad actors, but the price they inflict is terribly high.

This column was first published by the California Policy Center.

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  1. From the courts: (Chadwick .vs State Bar)
    The concept of “moral turpitude” might escape precise definition, but it has been described as an “act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”
    From the dictionary, as a ‘note on usage’:
    There is no strict legal definition of moral turpitude, and it can be interpreted in any number of ways. Even the legal and otherwise acceptable behavior can be interpreted as a moral turpitude if some party would desire so in order, for example, to get out of the contract.

    So even the web does not really know what this is, but it is bad if I say it is bad.
    Some societies would say any homosexual act is moral turpitude. Some societies would say religion is moral turpitude. Some societies would say being a democrat is moral turpitude. Certainly it should be a part of the personnel file of a police officer.

  2. “The judge wrote that an expert called by defendants found that 1 percent to 3 percent of the state’s approximately 275,000 public-school teachers are “grossly ineffective.” ”

    I wonder how many are merely “ineffective”?

    1. I wonder how many are merely “ineffective”?

      The rest.

  3. What’s wrong with a union doing its utmost to defend a member, even at the public’s expense? Defense lawyers do much the same thing with their clients.

    1. Do you not understand the difference between a government monopoly like law enforcement and a private, competitive business such as auto manufacture? Note: this is a rhetorical question, because i already know the answer.

      1. You mean it’s OK for private sector unions to protect their members, but not public sector unions? Because they’re public?

        1. You didn’t answer my question.

          1. You said it was a rhetorical question. Now you want an answer?

            1. I’m saying that the nonsense you typed was not an answer.

              1. “I’m saying that the nonsense you typed was not an answer.”

                It wasn’t meant to be. If you have any non-rhetorical questions you’d like to ask me, go ahead. I’ll give them all the attention they deserve.

        2. That is absolutely right. Because the auto workers don’t get to elect who manages the fucking company.

          1. Public sector workers don’t elect their managers either. I think you should spell out your objections more clearly.

            1. They don’t elect the representatives and senators that make decisions on their funding? That will be news to the SEIU, et al.

              1. “They don’t elect the representatives and senators that make decisions on their funding? ”

                They might. How is this a problem? You’d prefer them not to vote, or only vote for politicians who adversely affect union interests?

            2. Public sector unions spend millions electing union friendly politicians who write the statutes and sign the contacts that create the shit spelled out in the article above.

              1. “Public sector unions spend millions electing union friendly politicians who write the statutes and sign the contacts that create the shit spelled out in the article above.”

                You’d prefer them to spend their money supporting unfriendly politicians? Doesn’t make much sense to me. I think you should try to explain your thinking on the issue more clearly.

              2. Actually, at the local levels, what the unions contribute is a drop in the bucket of the money that these politicians raise, and the number of police, including relatives that might also support them, don’t form much of a voting block.
                The idea that the politicians give special consideration to public sector unions in exchange for financial and electoral support is a fallacy.

                1. BS. Any elected official (and candidate) cannot avoid some preferential attention to organized voices, pro or con. And most established (read: crooked) city political machines include complex symbiotic relations between elected offices, appointed managers, and rank and file staff.

        3. You mean it’s OK for private sector unions to protect their members, but not public sector unions? Because they’re public?

          Does anybody dispute this?

          Public sector unions shouldn’t exist period. The people who make the deals don’t have their skin directly in the game. They accept donations and support to keep their jobs from the people they’re negotiating with.

          If you want to know what collusion is — public unions and the Democrats who give them insane perks is a prime example.

          1. Maybe there should be legislation making it illegal for unions or their members to either vote or donate money. Or maybe just be in a union.

            “If you want to know what collusion is — public unions and the Democrats who give them insane perks is a prime example.”

            Nobody is forcing you to vote for Democrats. We have a wonderful Libertarian party that’s long been crying out for support.

          2. With public sector unions, the negotiating table has only one side.

    2. To tolerate or recognize any combination of civil service employees of the government as a labor organization or union is not only incompatible with the spirit of democracy, but inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. Nothing is more dangerous to public welfare than to admit that hired servants of the State can dictate to the government the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizen. To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous.

      1. This brings to mind the California teacher suing over paying union dues on the grounds that it was compelled speech – a public sector union arguing for higher pay/better working conditions/increased staffing/whatever is necessarily arguing for a particular public policy with regards to taxing and spending. How is that not political speech? And how is compelling somebody to pay union dues not compelling them to underwrite that speech?

        1. Chance mtrueman responds with anything other than a total non-sequitur: 0.05%

        2. “This brings to mind the California teacher suing…”

          Before your mind wanders too far astray, I just wonder if there was anything wrong with a union, even a public sector union, doing its utmost to protect the interests of its members.

          1. The union tells the public they are there to protect the quality of education to the students, but does the exact opposite, by protecting teachers who should not be there. When a union teach physically strikes a student, and they get to keep their job, you need no other example of why public unions are incompatible with reality.

            A public union “sells” that they are there to protect public, but they only protect members. This is why public unions are a bad idea.

      2. I don’t think these public sector unions are setting policy. Besides doesn’t the constitution allow people to assemble?

        1. Did you read the article?
          ” But the union representing deputy sheriffs “argues that the disclosure would violate state laws protecting officer personnel files and draw unfair scrutiny on deputies whose mistakes might have happened long ago,” according to a separate Los Angeles Times story, which notes that California grants officers the most wide-ranging police privacy protections in the nation. The appeals court agreed with the union in a February decision temporarily blocking the release of the names.”
          So electing politicians who enact laws whose sole purpose is to prevent public disclosure of their misdeeds is not setting policy?

          1. “So electing politicians who enact laws whose sole purpose is to prevent public disclosure of their misdeeds is not setting policy?”

            If it were only union members allowed to vote in these elections, you might have a point.

    3. A union defending its members is fine – that’s what the union is there for.

      The government forcing me to use unionized schools whether I want to or not is not fine.

      1. So use a non-unionized school if it’s an issue with you.

        “A union defending its members is fine – that’s what the union is there for.”

        I like getting folks here to admit when they are wrong.

        1. Let me not pay taxes on it (eg the unionized school I don’t use), and we have a deal

          And no, a union defending its members is *not* fine when the members of said union are forced by government mandate to join the union in order to work at that company. 40% of the members of the UAW voted for Scott Walker, yet 100% of dues went to his opponent.

          Majorities are not The People. Markets are The People.

          1. “Let me not pay taxes on it (eg the unionized school I don’t use), and we have a deal”

            Hire an accountant if you want to lower your taxes. I am in no position to make these bargains with you. You might want to emigrate. Russia has a flat tax of 13%, instead of the communistic tax system used in the USA.

            “And no, a union defending its members is *not* fine when the members of said union are forced by government mandate to join the union in order to work at that company. ”

            Not only are they forced to join the union, they are forced to pay its dues, as well. Shouldn’t these oppressed workers get something in return for their troubles? Like protection when they run into problems? It seems you want to deny these workers even that, along with the rights to vote and donate money to politicians they support.

            1. You talk in circles so long as the narrative is as you need it. Fuck off, slaver.

            2. No, I’m quite satisfied with the current level of Polonium-210 in my morning coffee, thank you.

              You really don’t understand the concept of “choice”, do you? It doesn’t matter that the government (or the union it provides muscle for) gives me a school or worker representation in exchange for the money it takes. What matters is that, by taking it, it prevents me from spending it on a different school, or a different labor union, if *I* so choose. Thus superimposing a bureaucrat’s preferences over mine.

              If a parent chooses to send their kid to private school, in our system, they still have to pay for the public-sector school they don’t use, thus limiting their ability to pay for said private school… even if all the parents in the area are middle-class (so no argument for wealth redistribution, even if you believe in it).

              Meanwhile, I really fail to see how you can think it is right that 40% of a union’s workers can be made to pay to support a candidate they oppose. Unless you think that those poor little workers were suffering from false consciousness, and needed a benevolent commissar, oh, sorry, “union boss” to shepherd their thoughts in the right direction.

              How you twisted that into me “wanting to deny them the right to donate to politicians they support” is flabbergasting… Or at least, it would be, if everyone who regularly comments here didn’t already know your reputation as a room-temperature-IQ troll.

  4. Here I thought you were going to mention this story from the other day. Cop testifies as to how the shit went down, either not knowing or not caring that his body camera was recording a different story, and what’s anybody going to do about the cop committing perjury? *crickets*

    You might wonder since there’s a policy of cops wearing body cameras why the city attorney relied on the cop’s testimony rather than asking for the video evidence – did he ask? Was he told there was no video evidence? Did he not present the video evidence because he knew damn well the cop was lying his ass off? And why has the prosecutor’s office turned this over to the PD as an internal affairs matter rather than prosecuting the cop, as is their job? You might wonder, but I think we all know the answer.

    1. Good arguments over the conduct of prosecutors.
      Maybe if people realized that, while being on “the same side”, police have very little to do with the trial and punishment, after the arrest is made. What happens subsequent to arrest is completely in the hands of the prosecutors.

  5. draw unfair scrutiny on deputies whose mistakes might have happened long ago,

    If only this same policy applied to a person with an arrest record.

    1. Especially if they’re looking for justification after the fact for some horrible thing they did to someone.

    2. But it does.
      If you are called as a witness, your past history is generally not permitted to be used to convince a jury that you are a liar.

  6. Public unions aren’t people

  7. One work around for defense attorneys is to ask a police officer testifying if he has any disciplinary actions on his record that might impair his credibility. A officer who does risks perjuring himself or damaging his credibility by invoking the 5th Amendment protection from self incrimination.

  8. Recently I have read a similar story. I have realized that these days teachers have to buy supplies for schools with their own money, that’s why they have asked ordinary people for help. It’s not a crime. It is only a sign for the community that educators need their support. I would love the support to be other than financial, but everything costs money today. Even the Best of Writers needed support from their clients at times. Thanks for sharing the story, I will definitely recommend it for reading to all the teachers I know.

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