The NYPD Took 7 Years To Fire This Cop. Then the Union Hired Him.

In practice, police unions' primary responsibility seems to be shielding officers from accountability and defending their conduct no matter what.


One of the reasons that it can be so difficult to hold police officers accountable is due to the incredible power wielded by police unions. Even when departments are willing and able to fire bad cops, unions can often get them reinstated, usually at great expense to taxpayers.

As it turns out, even if it can't save a bad cop's job, the union itself may just hire him.

The New York Post reported that Hugh Barry, a former sergeant with the New York City Police Department (NYPD), is now employed with the Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA), the police union that specifically represents NYPD sergeants.

Barry was fired from the NYPD after shooting and killing 66-year-old Deborah Danner in October 2016. Barry was among multiple officers responding to a noise complaint against Danner, a black woman who had struggled with schizophrenia for three decades. According to The New York Times, after Barry persuaded her to put down a pair of scissors she was holding, Danner allegedly "picked up a baseball bat and tried to swing" it at him, at which point he shot her twice. (An EMT would later testify that Danner had already put down the scissors by the time Barry arrived, and she only picked up the bat after he tried unsuccessfully to grab her.)

Both then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and then-Police Commissioner James O'Neill quickly condemned the shooting, with de Blasio calling it "tragic and unacceptable" and O'Neill stating, "We failed." They faulted Barry for deploying his firearm instead of a less lethal alternative like a Taser. De Blasio and O'Neill promised a thorough investigation, and Barry was suspended within hours of the shooting.

In May 2017, Barry was charged with second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. In February 2018, Barry was acquitted of all charges in a bench trial.

But while the department moved to fire Barry after the shooting, he would not face any administrative proceedings until January 2022—after which NYPD officials waited over 18 months before deciding his fate. In September 2023, the department finally forced him out, nearly seven years after he killed Danner.

Barry shot and killed a woman under questionable circumstances, and both the police commissioner and the mayor immediately criticized his conduct. While he would be acquitted by a judge on criminal charges, the city would later pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Danner's sister, who was present at the shooting.

And yet it took nearly seven years for the NYPD to fire Barry, who was placed on "modified" duty after the trial, which entails nonenforcement tasks; he earned $152,000 in 2020 alone, as his employer was actively pursuing his termination.

Every step of the way, the SBA—Barry's union, as an NYPD sergeant—supported him and pushed for his reinstatement. In June 2017, just two weeks after Barry's indictment, the SBA ran a full-page ad in the New York Post and the New York Daily News, in which SBA President Ed Mullins charged that Barry was "being used as a pawn in political gamesmanship." In the following years, the union tweeted numerous times from its official account, invoking Barry positively when commenting on unrelated stories. After his acquittal, Mullins said Barry "was wronged all along" and added that he "should be restored to full duty."

(In August 2023, just weeks before Barry was officially terminated from the NYPD, a federal judge sentenced Mullins to two years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to embezzling $600,000 from the SBA.)

Given its consistent support, it's perhaps unsurprising that the SBA would then choose to hire Barry, who as of this writing is listed on the union's website as a "reimbursement coordinator."

In practice, police unions' primary purpose seems to be shielding bad cops from accountability and defending their conduct no matter what. In 2020, two officers with the Buffalo Police Department shoved an unarmed 75-year-old man, whose head hit the pavement and started bleeding. An arbitrator hired by the police union later sided with the officers, determining that the man's fall "might well have had as much to do with the fact that he was holding objects in each hand or his advanced age" as the fact that he was forcibly pushed.

Between October 2015 and March 2021, the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department reinstated 37 terminated officers—17 of whom had been deemed a "threat to safety"—after arbitrators overruled the department, costing district taxpayers $14.3 million.