MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

More Obstacles to Prosecuting Police Misconduct Revealed in Police Union Contracts

Black Lives Matter's Campaign Zero project releases new analysis of contracts and police bills of rights.

He can get witnesses' addresses.DonkeyHotey/Flickr/Louise MacabitasBlack Lives Matter's Campaign Zero project has released a new analysis and interactive data visualization project based on information obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests into the police union contracts of 81 of the U.S.' 100 largest cities, as well as the "police bill of rights" enumerated in the 14 states where such laws exist.

The authors of the report wrote, "Working with legal experts, advocates, and academics with an expertise in this area, six major areas are identified wherein these contracts and bills of rights contribute to making it more difficult to hold police accountable for misconduct."

Among the study's findings:

25 cities and 4 states disqualify certain complaints from being investigated or resulting in discipline, for example if they are submitted too many days after an incident occurs or if an investigation takes too long to complete.

As an example, the Columbus PD requires a written complaint to the city within 60 days of any alleged misconduct or the complaint will not be investigated.

Regarding police interrogations:

50 cities and 13 states restrict interrogations by limiting how long an officer can be interrogated, who can interrogate them, the types of questions that can be asked, and when an interrogation can take place.

The study cites Louisiana's Police Bill of Rights permitting officers to delay interrogations for up to 30 days. Officers are also often granted access to information prior to interrogations that would be unthinkable for ordinary citizens. For example, the Wichita PD's union contract allows officers to have "access to the names and addresses of complainants prior to an interrogation," and Florida's Police Bill of Rights permits officers to review all evidence (including audio and video) which could be used against them before they are interrogated.

When it comes to disciplining police misconduct, "64 cities and 7 states limit disciplinary consequences for officers, for example preventing an officer's history of past misconduct from being considered in future cases, and/or limit the capacity of civilian oversight structures or the broader public to hold police accountable." Additionally, Austin's police union contract forbids "Civilian Oversight" from exercising subpoena power.

Transparency is stymied by 43 cities and 3 states, which "erase records of misconduct, in some cases erasing records after 2 years or less." Cleveland's police union contract requires officers' "disciplinary actions or penalties" to be "removed after two years from the date the discipline was administered."

You can read my recent (and at times contentious) interview with Black Lives Matter organizer DeRay McKesson here, as well as other Reason coverage of BLM's efforts to bring transparency to police use-of-force policies and earlier reports on police union contracts.

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr/Louise Macabitas

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.

On select articles, Reason is testing a new comment promotion feature developed by SolidOpinion. Commenters can purchase points and bid to promote their comments and/or the comments of others. Winning comments are displayed at the top of the comment thread for each article, and are identified as “promoted comments.” Point purchases and bidding are handled SolidOpinion. Please send any questions and feedback to promoted-comments@reason.com.

  • The Fusionist||

    When did BLM become competent and responsible?

    The media should be ashamed that a group previously known for radical blowhardism and traffic blockades is now running circles around the journalistic establishment by investigating and publishing the kind of hard-hitting investigative reports one used to associate with journalism.

  • Lee G||

    BLM has always been split between those who actually think about the issue at hand and the blowhard idiots.

  • The Fusionist||

    I guess you'd expect that in a broad coalition. Retards and mensa candidates together.

  • Lee G||

    The retards get most of the publicity. Kind of like politics in general.

  • GILMORE™||

    BLM Every movement on earth has always been split between those who actually think about the issue at hand and the blowhard idiots.

    I am very glad that BLM has suddenly discovered that "Public Sector Unions use their political cronies to craft rules in their own favor to protect themselves from criticism or oversight"

    I am skeptical, however, that this discovery will lead them to any realization that the very same forces apply to every other aspect of unionized public-sector labor = which is a big reason why public-funded healthcare sucks, and why the schools that serve black kids so poorly are so horrible/expensive/unresponsive to the communities they serve.... etc.

    Because SEIU is all over their shit.

    Just as the Tea Party was co-opted by the bible-beating socon constituency - BLM has been completely infected with the labor movement mopes; and while they'll rattle the cage doors about these union-contract policies, I am confident nothing will be done to force any substantive changes. If anything, it will be used to leverage *similar protections* for other groups, and used to extort more public money for their own special-interests.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Saying that a group is "running circles" around the media is faint praise. There are kindergartens that could run circles around the media.

  • Lee G||

    50 cities and 13 states restrict interrogations by limiting how long an officer can be interrogated, who can interrogate them, the types of questions that can be asked, and when an interrogation can take place.

    So Bob, did you do it?

    No? Good enough for me. Let's get some drinks.

  • retiredfire||

    Actually pretty draconian when you consider that a non police officer NEVER HAS TO SUBMIT TO AN INTERROGATION.
    You know? That whole "You have the right to remain silent" thing, that apparently doesn't apply to LEO's?

  • gagster||

    Nonsense. LEOs have the right to remain silent too, just the same as any non-LEO. I suppose you'd argue that they don't because if they use that right they could be fired, but you'd be wrong. Non-LEOs could be fired for not talking to the cops too. Suppose a bank gets robbed and one of the tellers refuses to talk to the police, don't you think the bank would fire them for that?

  • The Fusionist||

    Where's dunphy to tell us that these sorts of rules are required by the penumbras of the Garrity decision?

  • Lee G||

    I'm amazed they got as much info as they did.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Dear Reason:

    Please don't post any more mocking pictures of the officer and the pepper spray. Do we really want to pay him another $38,000 in compensation for pain and suffering he received from the ungrateful public?

  • Lee G||

    Pike was suspended with pay afterward. According to a database of state worker salaries, he earned $119,067 in 2011, the last year for which figures are available.

    *feels boiling rage bubbling up*

  • Brochettaward||

    Disabled Patient Sues Airport and TSA After Bloody Altercation

    Cohen told us she tried to tell TSA agents her daughter is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed, and easily confused, but said she was kept at a distance by police.

    "She's trying to get away from them but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor. There was blood everywhere," said Cohen.

    The TSA agents had formerly been employed at Walmart.

  • Lee G||

    dammit

  • Cliché Bandit||

    WHY DID I READ THAT?!?!?!?!

  • Lee G||

    self-loathing

  • Lee G||

    They actually locked her up.

    Hannah was arrested, booked and on the night she should have been celebrating the end of her treatment, she was locked up in Jail East.
  • SugarFree||

    Well, I feel safer.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You should, no TSA agents were injured.

  • SugarFree||

    Look, no one told her to go out a get a brain tumor.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    She was not unresponsive.

  • Rich||

    Moreover, everybody knows ISIS uses mentally-challenged people as suicide bombers.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    The TSA agents had formerly been employed at Walmart.

    At least the good people who work at Walmart provide a useful service.

  • The Last American Hero||

    They also get fired if they are abusive to customers.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I have to say that my experience has been the Walmart employees are both more intelligent and more polite than TSA agents.

    Maybe Walmart let them go for cause?

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Why am I not amazed?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The authors of the report wrote, "Working with legal experts, advocates, and academics with an expertise in this area, six major areas are identified wherein these contracts and bills of rights contribute to making it more difficult to hold police accountable for misconduct."

    Good work. All hey have to do now is convince the bipartisan law and order consensus crowd that police accountability is a good thing.

    Good luck with that.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "She's trying to get away from them but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor. There was blood everywhere," said Cohen.

    At least she didn't have a gun.

  • Rich||

    Ahem. She *potentially* had a gun.

  • Peace Be Upon [REDACTED], Jr.||

    And what if that tumor had just gone off right there in the terminal?? BIO-WEAPON!

  • Crying Zelda Morning Link||

    Whenever some cop defender holds up an acquittal as some sign of truth, there's a huge asterisk. The entire process is rigged so that the evidence is as polished as possible. That's why cops hate video so much; they can't control the details.

    I'd love to propose that the public and the police get the exact same treatment; either they get ours, or we get theirs. The ensuing fight between the prosecutors, who would want the low bar, and the police, who would want the high bar, would be amusing.

  • retiredfire||

    If a police officer must submit to an interrogation, then you are already way ahead of them, because you never have to.
    You have the right to remain silent...

  • Uncle Jay||

    More Obstacles to Prosecuting Police Misconduct Revealed in Police Union Contracts
    Black Lives Matter's Campaign Zero project releases new analysis of contracts and police bills of rights.

    When the police beat someone into a coma, it is because the victim was not act according to the will of the people.
    When the police shoot someone to death, it is because they need the target practice.
    When the police arrest the wrong person, it is because the wrongfully arrested person is guilty of something.
    When the police harass someone, it is because the person looked at the police the wrong way.
    When the police take bribes, it is because they are woefully underpaid and underappreciated.
    When the police plant illegal wiretaps into our homes, businesses and cars, it is because they are bored and like to listen to other people's banter.
    The police can do no wrong.
    Just ask Beria or Himmler.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Oh, no! Mustn't mention Lavrentiy Beria. Only RIGHT WING monsters, ever. Mustn't mention that the Communists committed more atrocities in the 20th Century than any conceivable combination of "Right Wing" dictators. Mustn't mention that Yasser Arafat spent WWII with his tongue so far up Nazi butt that he should have been starting bratwurst. No, no, no! All causes and people ever embraced by Our Liberal Betters were always angels of mercy and kindness!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm not sure how an employment contract between an agency and its workers could affect criminal justice, but then I'm not a prosecutor.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    It would take a prosecutor or a judge or an elected official willing to buck the Unions, saying "I don't care what the %$#^$ your contract says. Your contract does not affect the Law. You will give your statement under the same circumstances as every other citizen, or you will be jailed for obstruction."

    We could get there some day, but we aren't there now.

  • Alan@.4||

    Might I suggest that you not hold your breath waiting for that glorious moment to arrive.

  • retiredfire||

    "You will give your statement under the same circumstances as every other citizen, or you will be jailed for obstruction."?
    You mean every other citizen that has the right to remain silent?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    But I don't WANT to shove thing up my butthole for a webcam.

  • Alan@.4||

    Isn't it a crying shame that John Q. Public isn't "protected" by union contract clauses. And by the way, local government agreed to these contracts and all those little noticed clauses, didn't they?

  • woodNfish||

    Police unions should be illegal.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online