Police Unions and the Problem of Police Misconduct (Updated)

The available evidence suggests that police unions are a major obstacle to holding rogue police officers accountable.


The Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd had a history of misconduct. According to news reports, he had previously been placed on leave after using lethal force and was the subject of at least 17 complaints. Details of the complaints are sparse in the reports. This is not surprising as police disciplinary records are often not maintained in publicly accessible form, if they are maintained at all. Minneapolis also seems to have a history of not disciplining police.

The New York Times editorialized this week that the killing of George Floyd is yet another reason to reconsider the doctrine of qualified immunity. Under this doctrine, as currently applied by the Supreme Court, police officers are often immune from civil suit for violent misconduct. I blogged about a recent Reuters report on this problem, and the Cato Institute has created this resource on the problems with qualified immunity.

Limiting (if not eliminating) qualified immunity would certainly help (though there's a reasonable debate whether this is more properly done through legislative reform than through the courts). On the other hand, the effects of eliminating qualified immunity may be limited if police departments indemnify their officers. Should qualified immunity be limited, you can be sure such protection will immediately rise to the top of the agenda for every police union in the country.

If one wants to tackle the structural obstacles to holding rogue police officers accountable, it seems to me one has to address the power of police unions. As a Reuters report from a few years back documented, police union contracts in major cities routinely include provisions that erase disciplinary records and obstruct meaningful discipline (let alone prosecution) of police officers who abuse their authority.

Recent academic research further demonstrates that police disciplinary procedures established through union contracts obstruct accountability and (as I noted in this post) collective bargaining for police officers appears to increase police misconduct. This is not surprising. Through collective bargaining, police unions demand protections from disciplinary procedures that would not otherwise be approved, oppose consent decrees and other measures to increase police accountability, and (given the power of police unions in state and local politics) they receive relatively little pushback.

Most police officers may discharge their duties faithfully and effectively. Police deserve our appreciation and respect for the hard work they do. At the same time, when police officers engage in misconduct, discipline and accountability are essential. Obstructing the discipline of the minority of police officers who engage in misconduct undermines the relationship between police forces and the communities they are charged to serve and protect. It also prevents justice when police officers use deadly force without cause.

If we want there to be fewer events like the killing of George Floyd, it's to tackle police unions.

UPDATE: Additional preliminary research by Rob Gillezeau finds some additional effects of police unionization. Specifically, his work appears to find that the introduction of collective bargaining produces "a modest decline in policy employment and increase in compensation with no meaningful impacts on total crime, violent crime, property crime or officers killed in the line of duty." More sobering is his finding of a "substantial increase in police killings of civilians over the medium to long run (likely after unions are established) with an additional 0.026 to 0.029 civilians killed in a county each year of whom the overwhelming majority are non-white." Tweets Gillezeau: "with the caveat that this is very early work, it looks like collective bargaining rights are being used to protect the ability of officers to discriminate in the disproportionate use of force against the non-white population."

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  1. Qualified Immunity = A License to Act with Impunity

    Time for police unions to stop opposing transparency into their member’s misconduct. Those records need to be made public. Isn’t their motto to serve & protect? How was George Lloyd served?

    1. Yes, well past time, but no way will the unions do that of their own volition. If we can’t abolish all public-sector unions (my preferred solution), we need legislation limiting what it is legal to bargain for. Getting even that through a legislature in the face of union lobbying is extremely unlikely.

  2. FDR himself spoke out against public-sector collective bargaining (while his TVA, admittedly, collectively bargained with some of its employees).

    Politifact, obviously embarrassed at FDR’s opposition, nonetheless, after much hemming and hawing, admitted it. Of course, “[t]o be sure, Roosevelt’s views were in part a product of his time” and [s]cholars…believe FDR’s views might have evolved in favor of public sector bargaining.”


    So the opponents of police unions have FDR on their side, but the unions have the advantage of having alternate-universe FDR on their side, so I guess it balances out.

    1. George Meaney was also opposed to public sector unions.

    2. Safe to say the issues here are not generally applicable to public-sector unions.

      1. In the sense that public-school teachers can’t the kids up with impunity, even I understand in the most unionized districts. But disciplining them for academic failings is a bit of a challenge in some jurisdictions.


        1. Save it for the teachers’ union thread. This seems a more pressing issue.
          I mean, I get the similarities, but now is not the time. Maybe we can learn some lessons from solving the one that’s causing widespread chaos and disunion, eh?

          1. I beg your pardon, I misunderstood you as introducing a new topic – “Safe to say the issues here are not generally applicable to public-sector unions.” In my casual reading, I thought you meant this as a defense of non-police unions, thus bringing those non-police unions into the conversation. But if that wasn’t your meaning I sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding.

            If you say you were trying to keep the discussion confined to police unions only, I’ll be happy to take you at your word.

            1. Well, not so much a new topic as speaking to my point about public unions – I do beg your pardon, I am trying to keep up.

              Maybe Roosevelt was right about police unions but wrong about letter-carriers’ unions.

              1. Sure, I’d be down with that statement. I also don’t really worry too much about FDR’s concerns as a great guide to modern policy absent a few examples (fireside chats, anti-laissez faire capitalism, broadening the definition of liberty).

                I generally find the dislike of unions on here to be partisan, knee-jerk, and anecdotal at best. Scratch the concerns and more often than not it comes down to electoral politics.

                Says nothing about police unions. They’re pretty screwed up. They don’t just advocate for immunity, but also ‘warrior training’ and heavier weapons. They reflect the screwed up culture they defend.

            2. When I say ‘this is not generally true’ and you just provide another example, you’re not contradicting what I’m asserting.

              This is a good OP about a serious problem. People coming in here to complain about unions generally or off-topic union peeves they have are partisanizing what looks like a nonpartisan problem.

              1. Sarcastr0….do you agree that police unions need to stop opposing transparency in member misconduct? This MN murdering cop had a string of prior complaints, if press reports are accurate. I believe more transparency on these things is what we need.

                Also…any clauses that hinder transparency into member misconduct in the negotiated contract need to be negotiated out. As quickly as possible.

                I was horrified by that video. Truly horrified. The other cops just stood by and let it happen.

                1. Recall that in Houston (I believe), as covered at Reason, cops killed a couple of “civilians” in their homes.* The first reaction of the local cop union boss was to denounce critics of the raid. That was before the cop leading the raid was arrested for murder for lying on the warrant application, and cases where he was a witness started to be reconsidered.

                  I see no productive role for these unions in dealing with these problems.

                  *White civilians, by the way.

                  1. The first reaction of the local cop union boss was to denounce critics of the raid.

                    Denounce isn’t strong enough. He threatened them.

                    Recall that in Louisville, EMT Breonna Taylor was murdered by cops who had broken into her home in the middle of the night based on no investigation at all. Then they charged her boyfriend with attempted murder of a cop because he shot at the armed home invasion gang who had broken into the home. The Louisville police union head had a tantrum because the boyfriend was released from jail based on coronavirus concerns.

                    1. “The Louisville police union head had a tantrum because the boyfriend was released from jail based on coronavirus concerns.”

                      They were certainly correct to object to that. It’s ridiculous to free someone who committed aggravated assault on a cop with a deadly weapon because of coronavirus. And their “tantrum” had a good outcome: the boyfriend is no longer free based on coronavirus concerns.

                    2. They were certainly correct to object to that. It’s ridiculous to free someone who committed aggravated assault on a cop with a deadly weapon because of coronavirus.

                      You mean someone who is accused of committing aggravated assault on a cop, don’t you?

                      And their “tantrum” had a good outcome: the boyfriend is no longer free based on coronavirus concerns.

                      I can’t tell if this is supposed to be irony. He’s free because they dropped the charges.

                    3. “… based on no investigation at all.”

                      The Fourth Estate is saying:

                      “But in an affidavit summarizing the investigation that led to the search warrant, Detective Joshua Jaynes said Glover was seen walking into Taylor’s apartment one January afternoon and left with a “suspected USPS package in his right hand,” then got into his car and drove to a “known drug house” on Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

                      And Jaynes verified through a U.S. postal inspector, according to the affidavit, that Glover had been receiving packages at Taylor’s address.

                      Jaynes also reported seeing a white vehicle registered to Taylor parked in front of the Elliott Avenue address “on different occasions” and said that, as of February 2020, Glover used Taylor’s apartment’s address as his “current home address.””

                      And the search of Glover’s house did find evidence he was dealing. I generally disagree with the war on some drugs in general, and no-knock warrants for anything byt hostage rescue, etc, etc, but ‘no investigation at all’ seems inaccurate.

                    4. but ‘no investigation at all’ seems inaccurate.

                      Drug dealers frequently use other people’s addresses to receive illicit materials. If I know that, just from actually reading newspapers and books (and probably Reason, too) then drug cops damn well know that. They had no information about her — only about Glover. They did not try to develop information about her before they raided the place.

                  2. Oh, you say “white civilians”…but what if they weren’t going to vote for Trump? Then, by transitive property and Biden’s Law, they *are* black.

                    Ipso fuckto.

                2. I think transparency and quite a bit more are needed for reform, and if the union stands in the way of those it’s bad and needs to change as well.

                  1. The unions *do* stand in the way of these things, that’s their nature, they have to be stripped of their collective-bargaining power so that they can be defanged and stop doing mischief.

                    1. Defanged or reformed.

                    2. Is reform like “more training”?

                    3. Hah. No, training for the cops maybe, not for the union.

                      I don’t know what it looks like; probably some kind of ADR to force a change of leadership.

              2. “This is a good OP about a serious problem.”

                And I was taking a look into the root causes of the problem.

                1. In the absence of collective bargaining, do you think labor arbitrators would be empowered to overrule disciplinary action against rogue cops? That’s just one egregious example.

                2. You have no support for the cause of the problem being anything generalizable to public unions generally. The Federal Employees Union ain’t doing this stuff.

                  1. Would be for or against stripping the police unions of their collective bargaining power?

                    1. I’m fine with it.

                      I’d like to try reform first, top-down if needed. Second, I’d try replacement – I don’t want to leave policemen unrepresented – I’m not an All Cops are Bad leftist.
                      But yeah, that may be the only path to reform; I won’t draw a line around it as unacceptable.

                  2. The Federal Employees Union is doing exactly the same things to protect dishonest incompetent and lazy federal employees, it’s just that most federal employees don’t carry guns and kill people.

                    1. And they surely, surely DO protect incompetent, dishonest and lazy employees, going waaay back to the 70s.

      2. Only if you consider “the issues here” narrowly.

        Any measures to deal with shockingly bad behavior by public sector union members are severely hampered by government employee unions.

        After the news media, government employee unions are the second most destructive organized force in American society.

        1. Yeah, I’m considering the issue narrowly.

          You barging in and saying ‘what about bad teachers? And also my partisan dislike of unions generally! Lets make a package deal!’

          Nope. And kindle screw off with that. It’s going nowhere right now, whereas police and criminal justice reform is moving.

          1. Fine with me if it’s considered narrowly. Police unions aren’t exactly like the others.

            1. Only in the sense that the cops are empowered to deal out violence, so they get immunity for wrongly dealing out violence.

              Teachers are empowered to deal out information, so THEY get immunity for doing THAT wrong.

              I don’t see public employee unions going anywhere any time soon. They’re primarily a mechanism for laundering tax dollars to local politicians’ campaigns, that’s the only reason they’re tolerated. But it’s a freaking huge reason.

          2. “Nope. And kindle screw off with that. It’s going nowhere right now, whereas police and criminal justice reform is moving.”

            You don’t think the issue might come up if we try to do any meaningful reform of police unions?

            Cops will rightly ask why they should be the only public sector field that doesn’t get unions. They will rightly point out that other fields have similar issues, but they get to be represented.

            And teachers and others will rightly wonder if they’re next. They will worry that many of the arguments to reform police unions could be made to reform teachers or health-care unions.

            1. There’s an easy answer – their job is the governmental use of force. It has unique concerns for society when they screw it up.
              And they’ve been screwing it up for a very long time, which ubiquitous camera have been making clear in a way that they are not for other with public sector unions.

      3. “Safe to say the issues here are not generally applicable to public-sector unions.”

        Why is it safe to say? Other public sector unions still protect employees who engage in misconduct or incompetence, even if the nature of the misconduct or the effects of the incompetence are different.

        1. This is just an argument against unions. Don’t partisanize this.

          If you can’t see how police issues are of unique and growing concern, you’re being obtuse.

          1. “This is just an argument against unions.”

            So what? If unions are bad for cops, why aren’t they bad for other public sector employees. And if unions are good for other public sector employees, why aren’t they good for cops?

            “If you can’t see how police issues are of unique and growing concern, you’re being obtuse.”

            Bullshit. Other unionized fields have similar issues. Maybe not the same issues, but so what?

            1. Your hostility to unions is blinding you to what everyone else is seeing.

              Also unions are not bad because they defend their members. That’s like saying defense attorney are bad.

    3. “[t]o be sure, Roosevelt’s views were in part a product of his time” and [s]cholars…believe FDR’s views might have evolved in favor of public sector bargaining.”

      Of course they would have evolved. Growing the number of voters locked under his thumb was a great revelation to a certain cynical political persuasion , as he readily admitted witb social security. An “unevolved” position concerned that politicians giving government unions everything they want, because it’s someone else’s money, is precious little to stand in the way.

  3. The problem with police unions is compounded by their political reach. They have effectively bought and paid for every governor of California since Reagan. This makes it next to impossible for legislators to reform the situation. It would help a lot if federal judges could fill that void.

    1. Utter bullshit. Law Enforcement is, of course, a powerful political voice in just about all state and local areas. But your example, California, disproves your own argument. California is now a very liberal state, and the law enforcement vote (which is reliably, but not universally, more conservative than the average voter out there) sways NO statewise elections for general offices, and has not for the past 12+ years. (Specifically law enforcement-type offices, like Atty General, are probably exceptions to the above.)

      1. California has always been a liberal state. Reagan signed into law the most expansive abortion laws in the country when he was Governor. That doesn’t mean certain groups don’t have political reach. During my 8 years in California I’ve witnessed time and time again Governors weakening legislation on police reform or sucking up to the police unions dozens of times. It’s completely transparent and somewhat sickening in my opinion.

        So – your comment is complete bullshit. But then you are biased and can’t see clearly so that’s not a surprise.

      2. And yet California still has policies that are much more favorable to law enforcement than one would expect from the liberal domination of state politics. This is particularly true when it comes to policies that benefit law enforcement officer personally as opposed to criminal justice policy you might expect law enforcement to favor. This is, it seems to me, exactly what you would expect to see if the unions were indeed very politically influential.

      3. Utter bullshit? You’re just ignorant.


        Sorry you cant bother to educate yourself ever.

      4. I call utter bullshit on your utter bullshit. Every single anti gun law passed in California has an exemption for law enforcement officers because of the fear the politicians have for the police unions.

    2. Democrats now have a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the California legislature. Those legislators could easily enact whatever reforms they want without interference by the governor or opposing party.

      1. Exactly. Adding support for my earlier comment.

        1. The fact that meaningful police reforms have not been enacted, even with a veto-proof majority, debunks your claim that police in California have no power.

          1. I should have been more clear. I do agree that police unions Do have political power. My point was intended to be, “There is no logical reason why, in California, police unions should have such power…and these unions continuing to have out-sized power speaks to the timidity and cowardice of politicians and media…mostly conservative media. These unions do not sway elections any more. But these unions are–inexplicably, IMO–still treated with fear by the legislative branch.”

            I’m very pro-union. But police unions have indeed protected some very bad apples. (And some anti-transparency policies that allow bad apples to thrive and infect.) And that’s why I think changes need to be made here.

            1. “There is no logical reason why….”

              They are a concentrated, highly motivated special interest group who can easily damage politicians’ careers by portraying the as pro-crime or anti-police. Their message is always simple (if misleading or outright false) when they choose to politically engage, the politician opposing a police union has to start explaining. Once a politician has to explain their position, generally, they’ve lost. The unfortunate thing about democracy (as otherwise laudable as it is) is that simple messages prevail over complex messages, notwithstanding that the world is complex. Also, the populace can temporarily get behind police reform (or eminent domain reform or farm welfare reform or whatever), but the concentrated special interests are nearly always able to roll back those reforms and recapture the government for their purposes. Why? Because the special interests are highly motivated and highly aware of any changes that directly affect them. The broader public are less motivated and their attention doesn’t remain on any one of these issues for very long.

              It’s an extremely difficult problem. There is no good reason for police unions to have outsize power in California or anywhere else, really, but there are very logical reasons why they do…nearly intractable reasons. I would love to hear an effective solution to this in the police context specifically or with respect to concentrated special interests generally.

              Of course, sometimes concentrated special interest groups achieve good things too. Again, it is complex. But hopefully we’ve reached the point where a majority of the public now see the police brutality thing in a helpfully simple way: Police with impunity kill people. They must be held to account.

            2. You call yourself a lawyer… yet seem to be devoid of logic…

              ““There is no logical reason why, in California, police unions should have such power”

              It is called politican donations dummy. Go educate yourself on the issue, seriously. Prison and police unions spend a lot in california, generally only surpassed by the educational system.

              It is amazing how wrong you continue to be.

              1. I honestly have no idea why Prof. Volokh et al continue to allow you to comment here, given your complete inability to comment without personally and gratuitously insulting every other commenter with which you disagree.

                1. Probably should’ve been “with whom you disagree.”

            3. Another.


              Why do you think pay and pensions for cops are so much in california? The money flows back to Democrats.

              1. When Scott Walker and the majority-Republican legislature in Wisconsin essentially destroyed public-sector unions in Wisconsin, guess which unions were exempted from the destruction? Police and fire unions. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans.

            4. santamonica811….Serious question. Do you think that outsized power and influence you accurately state is due to political campaign contributions at the local, state and federal level? I do. To what do you attribute this outsized power?

              Mind you, I don’t think that is wrong = public sector union political campaign contributions. Money is speech. But from my standpoint, Citizens United had the practical effect of evening out the playing field.

              1. Upon reflection, I think I’m changing my stance a bit. I thing a lot of the points you and others raised have some merit. I’m a liberal Republican (conservative re economics, guns, First Amendment, super-liberal on most of the other social issues). So, I am so wildly out-of-step with California already that cheerfully acknowledge that my thoughts about Calif. politics are pretty uninformed. If the law enforcement lobby is defeating state Amendments, etc., then I’m wrong about their current political influence.

            5. “these unions continuing to have out-sized power speaks to the timidity and cowardice of politicians and media…mostly conservative media”

              There are conservatives who fit your generalization, but it’s a subject on which it’s not hard at all to find conservatives on the right (anti-union) side…there are link limits, but there are articles by Steven Greenhut and in NR and The Federalist against the cop unions.

        2. Your earlier comment was just wrong. Sorry you doubled down on your ignorance. Both the police and prison unions have huge power on california. They are some of the ones primarily responsible for near bankruptcy in some cities.

  4. “If we want there to be fewer events like the killing of George Floyd, it’s to tackle police unions.”

    I think there’s a typo or two in this last sentence. I don’t think this is an actual sentence…it seems to be missing a word or two in order to be complete.

    The problem seems to be with capitulating to some of the anti-transparency and anti-accountability policies pushed by individual police (and therefore, by police unions). This does not seem to be a police union issue as much as it is a “weak and feckless legislature afraid to go against police unions and being labeled as Soft. On. Crime” issue. After all, if the political class refused to submit to these (I would argue, unreasonable on their face) union demands, there would be the occasional work strikes, but also, would not have this lack of transparency and lack of accountability. And if conservative (and liberal) media then refused to portray city/state efforts to reform as being “Anti First Responders,” then public support for these reforms would be there, across the political spectrum.

    1. What happens if the public comes to its senses and supports reform, only to realize the government’s hands are tied because of a union contract? How does one get out of such a contract?

      1. Not fund it.

        Every public sector contract I have ever seen has been “subject to appropriation” and all the public has to do is not fund it, or make it clear that they are ready to do that.

        It can become brinkmanship — the police (or schools or whatever) say they will have to lay off large numbers of officers and the public (or govt official) says “so be it” and then, hopefully, you can work something out.

        1. Reagan fired around 11,000 striking air traffic controllers who refused to return to work. Not only that he barred them from any federal service job for life. Good times

    2. The word is “imperative.”

    3. Legislatures are loath to challenge any police unions. Regardless of how corrupt the unions are police are very popular with the public, which has very little interaction with the police and the interaction most people do is because they have been a victim of crime.

      1. Yep.

        Remember what happened in Ohio when the Republicans included police and fire unions in their effort against public employee unions, parallel to the effort in Wisconsin? The bill was yanked into a referendum and shot down, and the campaign against it used police and firefighters as the face of their campaign.

  5. I worked my way up from refinery operator to head of the refinery lab. As an operator I had to join the union, OCAW at the time, to keep pressure off me. Later I was made management, so of course left the union and became the enemy.
    Over thirty years experience has shown me that 80% of the union time is spent defending 5% of the members, who would have been fired multiple times without the threat of lawsuit or strike. HR almost always sides with the union to just sweep trouble under the rug, day to day running of the refinery never being their issue.
    All unions are eventually captured by those most in need of union help. Police unions are no exception.

    1. Over thirty years experience has shown me that 80% of the union time is spent defending 5% of the members, who would have been fired multiple times without the threat of lawsuit or strike.

      As a union member who’s worked in contract administration, I can testify that’s there’s truth to this – although I’ve never threatened anything more than an arbitration over a personnel issue against an employer, as strikes over such things are outlawed in the agreements I’ve worked under, and lawsuits over issues covered by collective bargaining agreements are highly disfavored by the court system.

      But the same is true of criminal law in general. Most people have never had any interaction with the legal system except for a speeding ticket. But we maintain a huge court bureaucracy whose stated purpose is largely to prevent people from being unfairly subjected to incarceration for things like their political leanings or their religion or the color of their skin.

      Due process protections in union contracts prevent employers from unfairly targeting workers for reasons unrelated to job performance. Inevitably that’s going to mean that a handful of employees are going to benefit unduly from those protections.

      1. Seems inefficient. Why not just setup a fund to pay out to someone targeted by the employer?

  6. This is a problem, and some in the House and Senate actually want to deal with it. The problems are exacerbated when people ‘go along to get along’ with tyrants and injustice. Standing up to injustice can be as simple as stating your refusal to consent to injustice. King Christian the X suggested in his diary that he would wear the yellow star and request his citizens do the same if Germany demanded it. He also sent many of them to neutral Switzerland. This prevented the vast majority of Jews in Denmark from being shipped to their death in concentration camps.

    1. Neutral Sweden. You can’t get from Denmark to Switzerland without crossing Germany, but Sweden was next door.

  7. These circumstances are different from other union workplaces?

    1. The incentive structure that drives the negotiation between private entities and unions is entirely different than the one that drives public entities and unions. Public entities have far less accountability and have a built in incentive to capitulate since they are capitulating to the people who elect them.

    2. The government does not face any competition.

      If an airline or auto makers union pushes for excessive compensation or bad work rules that reward poor performance that company will eventually go bankrupt and all of the workers will lose their jobs.

      If a government employee union does the same the the government will coerce more money from the taxpayers and suffer no consequences. That is a reason we often have corrupt police departments and ineffective school systems.

    3. Our collective bargaining rules are written around the idea that the workers and bosses are in an antagonistic relationship and that the union represents the collective workers’ interests in conflict with management. Public sector unions act as voting blocks and in many cases exert great control over who becomes their bosses.

  8. > was the subject of at least 17 complaints.

    What’s the average-per-year number of complaints for an officer? Does it depend on their particular role (e.g., I can’t imagine “community liaison officers” get many)

    1. That’s always my thought when I read such things. In areas with high crime and many arrests of self entitled idiots who don’t respect the law, unjustified citizen complaints are inevitable. And, the better job an officer does (i.e., track down more bad guys and put cuffs on them), the more complaints they will receive. The easiest way for an officer to keep a “clean” complaint record is for them to look the other way every time possible – i.e., no do their job.

      Only complaints found to be justified should be counted. Of course, making the decision about which are justified and which are not should be an open process with responsible balanced panels.

  9. Police officers who do a good job have their reputations damaged in the public eye by the uncontrolled excesses of the bad apples, who repeat their patterns of abuse over and over again without serious questioning or accountability.

    One would think that self-interest in reputation would be a countervailing consideration for police unions, but apparently, freedom from the inconveniences of accountability seem to trump reputational concerns in the eyes of police unions. Perhaps this is because police are often held in high esteem by much of the public, and many officers may not really care as much about the segment of the population that feels differently. After all, if your job is enforcing the law, you are bound to be unpopular with some. So, a thick skin with regards to criticism is likely inevitable.

    Whatever the reason, contrary to the spirit of a profession whose central animating ideal ought to be seeing the law upheld, police unions seem to consistently advocate for measures that tend to weaken the enforcement of the law when the ones who have committed violations of the law are police officers. This, of course, makes many in the public at large skeptical of the role of the police; if following the law is so important, why ought it not be equally important that police officers themselves follow it? When they are accused of crime, why are they unique among citizens in being coddled?

    Aggravating this state of affairs is that state and local governments tend not to take a very adversarial position towards police unions compared to the approach that private companies take to their private union counterparts.

    I am not necessarily against public unions generally, as I think the voices of workers in their capacity as workers is very important. Having a voice in working conditions is important both substantively and as a matter of dignity. But I think police unions are particularly dangerous to liberty because of their tendency to promulgate policies that hinder the enforcement of law when the actions of police officers come to be questioned.

    If police unions continue to be tolerated (and it is a serious question whether they ought to be), they ought to be strictly limited to negotiating wages, benefits, and working conditions other than disciplinary processes. Quite unfortunately, the police unions have had their chance to demonstrate responsible citizenship in this area, and they have consistently failed to do so. Police unions have failed in their duty to be responsible citizens. In doing so, they have failed both the police officers they represent and the country.

    That we are, once again, suffering nationwide riots because the police have failed to police their own is all the evidence we should need that reform is needed. And the case is particularly bad in this instance, since the protests that are happening now are surely going to make the pandemic we are in much worse. Protestors are not social distancing, and many are going to go back to their home, newly infected with COVID-19, and pass it on to roommates or elderly family members or others with comorbidities. There will be a lot more deaths of innocent people caused by the killing of George Floyd than just one.

    With regard to accountability, civil liability may be more important than criminal liability, since prosecutors tend to shy away from holding the police accountable, often using grand juries to shield themselves from taking responsibility for a decision to not prosecute. In contrast, victims of police abuses (or the family members of such victims) are more likely to have the incentive and desire to ensure accountability.

    In terms of civil liability, three tentative ideas that might help include:

    (1) Making the full disciplinary history of particular police officers fully discoverable and admissible.

    (2) Eliminating or curtailing the judge-made doctrine of qualified immunity for police officers. I think we all have had enough of seeing what are obvious constitutional violations, including those involving disturbing acts of violence, go unpunished because there is not a case closely enough on point. Qualified immunity may protect some police officers from unfair surprise when new precedent is created, but the more significant impact is that it encourages police to be brazen in their actions when that behavior is in any sort of possible constitutional gray zone. Assuming, of course, that thoughts about the Constitution actually played any real role in the challenged decision-making, which may not always be the case. One wonders whether qualified immunity really addresses theoretical unfairness as opposed to actual unfairness in the real world. In many case, whether there is a case that is close enough on point or not may be orthogonal to the police officers actual moral responsibility; if police officers weren’t really thinking about constitutional law when they decided upon a course of action, then the existence or non-existence of a case on point really has much less to do with their moral responsibility.

    (3) We should consider limiting the ability of the employers of police officers to indemnify them. For example, perhaps they ought to be required to personally pay something like the first $100,000 of any judgment or settlement. Perhaps the ability to discharge such debts in bankruptcy, if they arise in part from a violation of a state or federal constitution, should be limited. Maybe plaintiffs ought to be required to get court permission before dropping any police officer against whom a suit is brought from the case, so that plaintiffs do not collude with police departments to evade limits on indemnification.

    I think most of us recognize that the vast majority of police are good and admirable people. But it isn’t about that. The system has been failing both them and us. Reform is needed. At the same time, the above are just tentative ideas. Our system will continue to need a balance, and we must be mindful to not go so far that police are afraid to do the important job assigned to them. And we should continue to show our deep appreciation to the vast majority of police officers who do their duty with both care and honor.

    1. I had a refinery employee working at the lab grab a secretary by the boob in front of witnesses. The union demanded, understandably, that he be fired. Once I filed the paperwork to fire him after investigation, the same union filed a grievance against his termination. Since he was a dues paying member, they were forced by the contract to represent him in any disciplinary action.
      This might be what drives the whole ‘defending the indefensible’ thing, along with the main supporters of the union being those most in need of union support.

      1. Since he was a dues paying member, they were forced by the contract to represent him in any disciplinary action.

        Actually his status as a member of the union had nothing to do with it. Under the doctrine of “the duty of fair representation,” a union is obligated to represent – in negotiations and in contract administration – anyone who works under a collective bargaining agreement, member or not. As this doctrine can be, and is, enforced by courts, the safest thing for a union to do is to take even the weakest cases to arbitration when it involves termination of someone’s employment, as losing a DFR lawsuit can make the union liable to all lost back pay.

        Technically unions are not obligated to take terminations for just cause to arbitration under the DFR doctrine, but most will simply for this reason.

    2. Police officers who do a good job have their reputations damaged in the public eye by the uncontrolled excesses of the bad apples, who repeat their patterns of abuse over and over again without serious questioning or accountability.

      It’s the 95% of cops who are bad who make the other 5% look bad.

    3. “Eliminating or curtailing the judge-made doctrine of qualified immunity for police officers.”

      What happened to “I need to see more data”?

    4. Police should protect and serve rather the “see the law upheld”. We need protectors, not enforcers.

  10. Quite a few are concentrating on unions and missing police, which are some telling ideological blinders.

    1. The reason to focus on police unions, is because they are the ones that put enforceable agreements in place that often shield individual police from accountability.

      Individual police officers simply do not have the power to achieve such results without police unions.

      1. No no, I agree with that. Plenty of comments just ignoring the special issues of police unions and police to air grievances about unions generally.

        I mean…that’s not even a good libertarian stance.

        1. From someone who has had to deal with employee firings in various other public sector unions, the only special issue is that police engage in more dangerous activities, so when they cross the line the results are more dangerous. Reviewing termination cases will simply tire you out because of the behavior that is defended. Teachers with multiple instances of sexual harassment of students, court clerks having sex in a jury room, cafeteria workers spitting in food, etc.

          In a sort of meta way, all these actions should be easier cases to adjudicate because all those actions are done on the job, but are ultra vires. A cop who goes too far in carrying out an arrest is like a cafeteria worker not washing his hands, or a clerk misfiling a key document. Its an error done during a legitimate operation. The difference being that because of the nature of the work, its more likely to have deadly consequences.

          1. This is what I’m talking about. You’re hostile to unions. Get that out of here; don’t try and attach it to this, if you want to solve this problem.

            The special issue with police unions is them preventing any change to the current police officer trainings and policies that seem to be resulting in an awful lot of shootings. Sexual harassment is awful, but different in scale and kind. In the age of ubiquitous cameras, this isn’t viable at a social level.

            The hard part is preserving cops’ ability to enjoy a comfortable middle class salary & fair working conditions, but without allowing authoritarian elements to override political leadership. Cops should have workplace bargaining power, but not outsized political power.

            Conflating this with a larger problem that you want to solve is just going to render this issue more difficult at the moment.

            1. “This is what I’m talking about. You’re hostile to unions. Get that out of here; don’t try and attach it to this, if you want to solve this problem.”

              Why? We can easily solve this problem by eliminating public sector unions. Why don’t you want to solve the problem, Sarcastro?

              1. Don’t be tendentious, TiP.

                There are other, more tailored solutions.

                1. “There are other, more tailored solutions.”

                  We might solve too many problems?

                  1. Or manage to solve none at all.

                    Your dumb crusade is dumb and also doesn’t belong here.

              2. Because he wants to protect teachers and other government employees (disproportionately non white) who support the Democrat Party.

                1. Hey now. I’m sure Sarcastro wants to protect the other unions that support the Democratic party no matter what race their members are.

                  1. Don’t argue with the white supremacist yahoo, but thanks for that TiP.

                    Actually, I think teachers unions are in need of reform as well, I just think this is very much not the time.

                    I do think unions in general are good, though, and ending them would be quite bad. Labor without representation to management results in management repeatedly screwing workers.

            2. More like your ideological blinders require framing in the most narrow manner in order to not burst your bubble. Most of the things you’re whining about are actually root cause issues that you want to claim is somehow unique.

              The same union incentives that promote keeping bad cops also allows unions to keep teachers after sexually assaulting kids, but hey, cops are special.

            3. Why is this “Special” to police unions? If you transplanted the procedural rules that protect teachers or firefighters the problem would not change. In fact, it would probably get worse.

              The actual “hard part” is that police jobs are naturally dangerous to the public, because its their job to engage in activities that are normally illegal. The job of a police officer is to engage (selectively) in conduct that would otherwise be called, battery, kidnapping, and sometimes homicide. This means that mere negligence by an officer can cause death. Almost no public union lets its employees be significantly disciplined for mere negligence during the course of normal duties.

              If police were like court clerks, we wouldn’t be hearing about cases where police conducted a justified, or almost justified arrest and they went too far. Or they were too quick to pull the trigger. Instead we’d be hearing about how cops randomly go into supermarkets and kidnap babies out of their mother’s arms at gunpoint, then post videos of them torturing the baby.

              1. Well, that and the tactics the unions advocate for. They lock in some violent and bad policies all by themselves.

                It’s going to be a heavy lift. You pointing to similar shaped rocks and saying if I don’t want to lift all of them at once I don’t really care about any of them is your partisanship getting in the way of solving this problem.

                1. No. First of all, its probably more politically feasible to move all the rocks at once in this case. We are talking about union protections. The police unions don’t actually have particularly strong protections compared to other workers, they aren’t even allowed to legally strike. So the problem, such as there is one, is not police union unique.

                  The union problem, which is part, but not even close to all, comes from the existence of the union which means the state has to treat them nice or face a hellish collective bargaining negotiation. It also comes from their ability to coordinate non-compliance with things the city wants it to do. Like not enforce property law during a riot. If the CPD had its way they’d have started gassing and tazing when the first brick was thrown.

                  It all comes around, the real problem is to get a police force that is actually going to be able to think and act at a higher competency level that decreases police brutality… you are going to have to hire humans that have better intelligence and impulse control. Which means paying more. And its going to be unpopular because of the higher cost and because you are going to have to hire a way different demographic.

                  1. The union problem

                    First, phrasing.

                    Second, I will fight you on that. I think unions are vital to our economic system.

                    As I posted above, The hard part is preserving cops’ ability to enjoy a comfortable middle class salary & fair working conditions, but without allowing authoritarian elements to override political leadership. Cops should have workplace bargaining power, but not outsized political power.

                    1. There is no “authoritarian element overriding political leadership” problem to solve. The problem is that normal union due process standards make disciplining officers hard. And that can’t be changed within a union system, because the overwhelming cause of police bad behavior is negligence, and no union is going to allow for a negligence standard in 1 off situations.

                    2. The NYPD union just doxxed the mayor’s daughter.

                      Look up the weapons and tactics police unions lobby to allow.

                      They can’t stop talking about how if you take away QI you will no longer have cops.

                      Those are all authoritarian moves – agree with me, or I will make bad things happen.

                      Police unions do a lot more bad stuff than just defend their members.

    2. Also, most police officers do their jobs in the same boring, legal way every day.

      1. Sure, but that alone isn’t very probative. Most soldiers didn’t die in WWI either, but somehow that’s not what we concentrate on.

      2. This is a very important point. Being a cop doesn’t break into the top ten list of most dangerous professions and more than likely you’ll get to retire early on a full pension and take a corporate job somewhere.

        But if you listen to police unions representatives – police officers are under assault every minute of every day. Which is – of course – completely false.

        1. Being a member of law enforcement is not like being on the front line of war. As someone said, the great majority of the time you have a routine day without laying your life on the line.

          What makes it different is that you never know when you will run into a WTF moment with a psycho.

          1. And fishermen never know when a sudden squall or rogue wave might wash one of them overboard and kill them. Your point?

  11. The referenced article concerning Minneapolis police misconduct discipline is from 2013 but has a key connection to the present. Some excerpts:

    “Of 439 cases involving Minneapolis police misconduct handled by a new office created last fall, not one so far has resulted in discipline of a police officer.”

    “’I believe there has been considerable progress,’ said Medaria Arradondo, commander of police internal affairs, who reviews complaints along with Michael Browne, director of the new conduct review office.

    “Arradondo said he was barred by the state Data Practices Act from giving details of the five cases that [Assistant Chief] Clark found were not subject to discipline.”

    Connection to the present: Mediara Arradondo is the current Minneapolis Police Chief.

  12. Keep the facts straight.
    There is no reason to believe that Floyd was killed by the police.
    That doesn’t justify what the police did, but to wildly over-accuse doesn’t help address the real problem.

    1. As the media has done with every other Black Lives Matter type event, it does not mind fomenting the race riots. Makes for some great virtue signaling and easy 24/7 news coverage. An if you didn’t think the media was enabling this type of behavior, just ask yourself why do they only show the one white cop instead of all four that are accused? Could it be the other 3 are minorities (or appear to be so)?

    2. The fact that he was alive and seemingly doing ok and then the police [did things to him] and then he was dead. That’s a reason. A very good reason.

      Reasonable doubt needs to have a reason behind it. Explain how something else killed him and the police had nothing to do with it. Be as imaginative as you want.

  13. Missing from all this is not what the average law enforcement officer should think about the situation, but what the average law enforcement officer does think about the situation. Could they feel held to double standards, when “they” are literally taking bullets for “us” on a daily basis?

    For all this bashing of the police unions, aren’t the police unions established by the police, for the police? So when the police side with the unions, how can you bash unions without being anti-police?

    Finally, are we erasing the agency of African Americans? Don’t African Americans have a responsibility to support law enforcement, instead of despise law enforcement? Indeed, doesn’t this hatred spill over to hatred of American society as a whole, in many instances? Maybe it is theoretically unfair to paint with a broad brush, but is this not the reality?

    Just a few questions, which nobody seems comfortable asking out loud.

    1. Could they feel held to double standards, when “they” are literally taking bullets for “us” on a daily basis?

      This is true, for no values of “literally” or “daily.”

      how can you bash unions without being anti-police?

      Conservatives routinely argue that being anti-teachers’ union isn’t the same thing as being anti-teacher.

      Don’t African Americans have a responsibility to support law enforcement, instead of despise law enforcement?


      And the good news is I get to use my macro again: This has been yet another episode of Simple Answers to Stupid Questions.

      1. David, are you a police officer?

        1. There was some interesting data in your link. For example, the only group who does not see the killings of black people by police officers as a systemic problem are….white police officers.

          The general public (black and white) and black police officers believe the killings are due to broader systemic issues rather than simply isolated incidents.

          This supports David’s point. His macro is fine. There is a simple answer to your stupid question about “African-Americans[‘]…responsibility to support law enforcement”.

          1. When I say responsibility to support law enforcement, what I mean is standing up against the rioting against law enforcement.

            When “peaceful” protesters are standing out on the street next to a burning cop car, are they not complicit in the violence? Are they not being used as human shields for thuggery?

            1. Even if I agreed with your argument in the abstract — and I don’t — the problem is that it represents the heckler’s veto of protesting. I can’t protest because someone else — who might be on my side, or might be on the opposite side, or might be on no side — might use my protest as cover for violence.

              And if law enforcement wants people to stand up against people rioting against them, they probably should stand up against the law enforcement officers who give people reason to riot. Derek Chauvin was not a rogue cop. He did what he did in full view of three other police officers, not one of whom intervened, either during or afterwards. After he murdered Floyd, he was not arrested. He was allowed to walk free, while the police issued a phony cover story about resisting arrest.

              1. Many would say those silenced are not victims of the police, but victims of the rioters. This is because the rioters created the conditions which made silencing necessary.

                Others might say, George Floyd was not a victim of police brutality, but was instead a victim of the rioters who made the conditions of police brutality necessary.

                When I hear these arguments made, as if everything is fine and justice is being served, I just want to confirm what is taking place is gas-lighting.

                1. the rioters created the conditions which made silencing necessary

                  Holy shit.

                2. Didn’t read to the end…yeah, this is something I hear as well, though not here usually.

            2. “When I say responsibility to support law enforcement, what I mean is standing up against the rioting against law enforcement.”

              The rioting sucks, but the good news is that it’s not a problem we need to solve. If we fix law enforcement, the rioting will stop. But there’s no way to stop the rioting without fixing law enforcement.

          2. stupid question about “African-Americans[‘]…responsibility to support law enforcement”

            It’s just about time to start using the ‘T’ word.

            1. Did you even look at your stats? White police officers are out of step with every other group on every race-related question in the survey. An astounding 92% of white police officer said that our country has made the changes necessary to give blacks equal rights with whites. Only 48% of the general public agrees with that statement. Granted, 57% of all white people agree with that statement, but there is a huge gulf between 57% and 92%. It is clear that white police officers are way, way out of the mainstream on issues of race. It is had to look at that data and not imply a significant strand of racism among white police officers. And it can’t be explained by a police thing because only 29% of black police officers agree with the sentiment. The disparity is shocking, frankly. There are few things that 92% of any group agrees on, and the fact that white police officers think society gives black Americans a fair shake at the rate of 92% where, at best, only half of the general populace thinks that? Something is dramatically skewed in a way that likely contributes to the disproportionate use of police violence against people of color.

              1. Yes, I did notice that and yes, you are absolutely right. Unfortunately, you didn’t pick up on my sarcasm. I’m simply trying to make a point about how easy it is for some people to dismiss anger over excessive force, no matter where it exists.

                As for the ‘T’ word, I spoke too soon. That’s what I get for tempting fate.

                1. These days, it can be hard to detect sarcasm from truly batshit views. Mea culpa.

                  And, just what we need….bringing the “T” word into it.

              2. Thank you lib and NOVA. The 92% figure is stunning.

                My guess is to produce a number that big there are some serious subculture/peer influence effects (as opposed to e.g. just impacts of cops’ unusual job pressures and experiences on individual perceptions).

          3. In 2018, police shot (and killed) 209 Black people. In the same year, there were 7407 African American murder victims.

            By comparison, there were 6088 Caucasian murder victims in 2018, and 399 White people shot (and killed) by Police.

            When the police kill someone, it’s a tragedy. But a simple look at these numbers may indicate that the police shooting of African Americans is not the biggest problem…

            1. There you go! /sarc

        2. Well, you have not succeeded in convincing me that I am wrong, but you have succeeded in confusing me. How on earth does that link address the question you asked me?

          1. Specifically, “Do Americans understand the challenges police face? Public says yes, police say no”, suggests police believe the public is unfairly passing judgement on the amount of force used in the line of duty.

    2. I’m surely in the top decile of pro-law enforcement sentiment on this site, but this seems like a pretty silly point. (Or, if you insist, series of questions.)

      Like anyone else, police officers have a selfish incentive to make their jobs as appealing as possible. Some of the ways to do that—such as offering compensation packages sufficient to attract and retain highly qualified personnel—are in the public interest. Others—from assignment requirements that needlessly inflate overtime to requiring procedural protections that make it too difficult to respond to misbehavior—are not in the public interest. And if (as, from what I can tell, is the case) unions are responsible for too many of the latter policies, it’s fair to re-examine the utility they serve.

      1. Restraining the amount of force police can deploy will inevitably lead to more dead police. Just a fact.

        1. I think it would be easily possible for police departments to significantly reduce the incidence of situations like this one without unduly deterring officers from defending themselves when actually necessary.

          1. What do you mean by “unduly”? In other words, how many dead police are you willing to tolerate?

            1. Police in the UK do not as a matter of course carry firearms. I have not heard tell of mass graves in that country filled with the corpses of police officers as a result of their inability to shoot first and ask questions later.

              1. Helps somewhat that the public also does not generally carry firearms.

                1. Except that cops in the U.S. often shoot people for carrying knives. Or bats or other blunt instruments. Not because they mistake these things for guns, but because they pretend to believe that these people are deadly threats to them.

        2. By that reasoning, librarian, lets let police all in air strikes. It it saves one officer…

          1. Exactly. In some countries, the shooting of an innocent minority is just another beautiful day in the neighborhood. No riots. No looting. In America, a whole lot of chaos could be avoided if riots were treated as terrorism. (but that doesn’t make it right)

        3. A few years ago a number of police were killed by individuals who were reacting to widespread anger at police.

          It is also clear that some activists are at times acting before the facts are known. For example the Freguson case where it seems the officer in question who was fired but had acted in accordance with established procedure and in defense of his own life and that the “victims friend” lied about what happened. The result was so clear the Holder DoJ wrote a nasty report about a common situation but took no other action.

    3. “when the police side with the unions, how can you bash unions without being anti-police”

      Easily. What’s your next question? How can you criticize military coups without being anti-military?

      It seems that when I criticize rioting, arson and looting, I’m a racist. When I criticize police getting away with murder, I’m anti-police.

  14. As to the question, “What could possibly be going through the mind of a rioter”

    In the documentary “bully”, there is a moment when the bullied kid is asked something like “what do you want to change?”, and he says “I want to be the bully”

  15. I think the problem is a societal one. The reason why it has become an issue now is because I would say up until the advent of the modern smart phone with video, society was largely OK with police acting the way it ended up being recorded in video. “Out of sight, out of mind” has a large part to do with it. John Q. Public doesn’t care about alleged police abuse when there isn’t an 8 minute heart wrenching video to depict it.

    Society also used to be fine with giving cops a “pass” when it come to the law effecting them. This was just internalized into police union practices. The “thin blue line” is a creation of society at large though and can’t be blamed on specific institutions or people necessarily.

    The main question now though is what do we do about it?

  16. It would be good it this were just an example of a rogue police officer, but this is just one example of the structural racism built into America that puts black Americans in fear of their lives for things that white Americans are not in fear of their lives for.

    1. Although I know liberals are loving the virtue signaling here, police abuses are plenty to go around and transcend race. Ask any defense attorney and they will tell you it happens all around regardless of the color of skin.

      1. Exactly. I am just saying that it happens more against persons who are not white.

        1. Do some work in a rural jurisdiction and then come back to me.

          “The police are racist” is a great sound bite and talking point, but police abuse is far deeper then just race. By trying to define it by that metric you are actually giving cops a pass for a lot more abuses they perpetuate on a regular basis.

          1. Your anecdote does not appose starlord’s general statement.

            1. Starlord’s statement does not qualify as a fact no matter how satisfying it is to you to believe it.

              1. You’re arguing there isn’t a special thing going on between cops and black people?

  17. Yes, police unions have too much power, and there is too little transparency to the disciplinary processes.

    But come on. That’s not the whole issue here. We’ve had generations of politicians, especially prosecutors, mayors, and a fair number of elected judges, who make a point of being “tough on crime.”

    As long as that rhetoric sells we are not going to see major changes, no matter what concessions the unions make.

    1. We don’t need the cop unions to make concessions, that implies they are equal partners with the representatives of the people, which is anti-republican (small “r”).

      We need cop unions to be stripped of their collective-bargaining powers, and for the contracts they’ve made with the public to be set aside as contrary to public policy.

      That won’t guarantee reform, but when the people wake up to the need for reform, it will make reform a lot easier.

      1. “We don’t need the cop unions to make concessions, that implies they are equal partners with the representatives of the people, which is anti-republican (small “r”).”

        We don’t need the public sector unions to make concessions, that implies they are equal partners with the representatives of the people, which is anti-republican (small “r”).”


      2. That should go for all public unions. And put the word out there to any federal “judge” who might be inclined to rule that the Contracts Clause prohibits this that there’s a helicopter waiting with his name on it.

    2. You’re absolutely right, it’s the politicians whose rhetoric successfully gets votes that are the problem. So, we should look at what politicians win political office in Minneapolis (where George Lloyd was killed), so we know exactly who needs to be stopped from having power.

      As it happens, I’ve looked that up. It turns out that twelve of the thirteen members of the Minneapolis city council (including the mayor), the county sheriff and the county attorney of Hennepin County, the state attorney general and the state governor of Minnesota, the state Senate and state House members representing Minneapolis, the US Congresswoman whose district covers all of Hennepin County, both of Minnesota’s US Senators, and all the presidential electors elected by Minnesota in 2016 have one thing in common — they’re all members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

      And, you know, I’ve been thinking, what’s the leading cause of those people being elected? The voters who are viciously racist enough to vote for them.

      So here’s my suggestion. We should prohibit all members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party from office and disenfranchise all registered members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, so that the sort of politicians who caused this mess can never again be elected.

      And just to be both bipartisan and safe, we should do the same for all members of the political party of that 13th member of the Minneapolis city council. So we’ll also permanently disenfranchise and remove from office all members of the Green Party.

      That should decisively open the door to the major changes we need, at least in Minnesota.

      Next, of course, we should look into the same data for the politicians who were in office when Freddie Gray was killed in Baltimore.

    3. Stop trying to blame recent failures on stuff someone did 30 years ago

  18. As a union officer and someone who works in a unionized workplace, I find this a very hard issue. I see no reason why people who work as police should be denied the right to organize and bargain with their employer – that seems to me a pretty fundamental right in a free society. Unions provide real counterbalance to employer power, and one which has become more and more needed since the highpoint of union power in this country decades ago. It would be a better country if unions had the kind of power in the US that they have, say, in Canada or Germany or the Scandinavian countries.

    But the special nature of police work, and the very direct power that police have over the public’s physical safety, argue for more control by their employer – ie government – and fewer protections for the employees than is the case even for most government employment.

    Add to this the problem that police unions tend to have a lot of power in both left-leaning (ie pro-union) and right-leaning (ie pro-police) jurisdictions, and you have a real tangle.

    It may be that this is a moment of real change in the public perception of police unions, and some needed reforms might be possible.

    1. The best reform is to strip cop unions of collective-bargaining rights and declare their union contracts to be invalid as contrary to public policy.

      Under the U. S. Constitution, the United States must guarantee to each state a republican form of government. That is, the people and their elected representatives make policy.

      When the representatives of the public are required to negotiate with their own employees as equals, on matters of public policy, the public loses out and the resulting contracts tend to deprive the people (at least the non-cop portion of the people) of their right to govern themselves.

      1. “The best reform is to strip cop unions of collective-bargaining rights and declare their union contracts to be invalid as contrary to public policy.”

        This is definitely true, but of course police officers shouldn’t have fewer rights than other public sector employees.

    2. “I see no reason why people who work as police should be denied the right to organize and bargain with their employer – that seems to me a pretty fundamental right in a free society.”

      On the contrary, monopolistic organizations and cartels are generally not allowed in a free economy. Unions are just a cartel.

      1. Unions are just a cartel
        Then what is management?

        Don’t use this issue to trojan horse your partisan bullshit into what could be constructive.

        1. “Then what is management?”

          ?? You think managers can collude to fix prices?

          1. Management coordinates to have unified position on what they offer their workers, so what is the difference?

            1. If you don’t like what they offer then don’t take it. Nobody is forcing you to take that particular job.

              1. Plenty of counterexamples to that simplistic thinking. Victorian England and the US in the 1930s spring to mind.

  19. “The available evidence suggests that police unions are a major obstacle to holding rogue police officers accountable.”

    And, the available evidence suggests that criminal defense attorneys are a major obstacle to holding criminals accountable.

    1. The difference is that defense attorneys are guaranteed by the Constitution, while collective bargaining between the government and its own employees undermines republican government.

      1. So all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Got it.

        Do we need the Constitution to keep us fair?

        1. Can someone translate this for me?

          1. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. A proclamation by the pigs who control the government in the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

            1. You’re saying cops are…which animal from Orwell?

    2. “And, the available evidence suggests that criminal defense attorneys are a major obstacle to holding criminals accountable.”

      Fine. Let’s replace police unions with criminal defense attorneys.

  20. Aha!! Found a way to use this crisis to continue my years-long campaign against public unions. Gotta post fast!

    1. FDR was a product of his time. If he’d had time to mature, he’d have cone around to your position, I’m sure.

      1. Why do you keep bringing up FDR, was he right in every other opinion he held? Personally I don’t find your general criticism of public sector unions convincing, but I’m afraid you and Prof. Adler may be right about police unions. Stripping away their right to collective bargaining may have unintended consequences, however. Perhaps less draconian measures would be prudent.

        1. “Why do you keep bringing up FDR, was he right in every other opinion he held?”

          Well, again, I’m looking to root causes. Why do rogue cops keep getting away with bad behavior, up to and including criminal homicide?

          Is it white supremacism? There are several people willing to defend that proposition. They’re willing to risk the danger of scapegoating whites and rending the dispute more partisan. But are they right?

          Or is one key cause (I didn’t say the only cause, but one cause which exacerbates the others and makes the problem much harder to fix) the whole idea of public-sector unions?

          If I want to illustrate my point, do I cite Scott Walker or the Cato Institute? Of course not, because they would be dismissed as scab-friendly anti-union sources.

          But FDR’s remark is a “declaration against interest” by a heroic figure among the group which styles itself (or used to style itself) “liberal.” You saw the Politico article – they’re quite embarrassed at the fact that the heroic liberal figure of FDR (sincerely or not) expressed himself against “progress” in this way.

          1. Sorry, not Politico, PolitiFact.

            1. Ah, I got you. I agree, not white supremacism, at least not for the most part. The job of law enforcement just seems to attract some bad actors. I think the problem is as old as there has been police.

    2. Discussing root causes is only acceptable if you’re throwing charges of racism around. Discussing public-employee unions as a root cause of public-policy dysfunction is out of bounds.

  21. During the Kavanaugh hearings, we were repeatedly told that fairness and due process in matters related to employment weren’t needed.

    So clearly government employee unions aren’t needed to protect government employees from unfair and abusive practices by their employer. It’s just a job, not a prison sentence, right? Due process can be hand-waved away for just a job. I’m pretty sure that was the argument used.

  22. Part of what makes this more complex is that the victim didn’t apparently die from asphyxiation, but rather from complications from his preexisting conditions, augmented by the choking. If he had been relatively healthy, he probably would have lived, but would have also lived if not choked.

    But also, there is some evidence that the two of them knew each other, having both worked for several years for a club that may have been a money laundering operation. The officer was apparently a security consultant, and the decedent a bouncer.

    The point is that it is rarely as simple as it first appears.

    1. So, let’s say that I stab a hemophiliac in a part of the body that isn’t usually fatal. Not my fault if he bleeds out on the way to the hospital and dies?

      1. It may change the nature of the crime, including intent and what a reasonable person would expect to be the outcome of their actions.

        Recall that the ex-officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter. Conviction on the former now seems much more difficult, and maybe adding a charge for criminally negligent homicide might not be a bad idea.

    2. “complications from his preexisting conditions, augmented by the choking”

      He was gonna die anyway!

  23. Sure blame the unions

    how about gutless administration?

    From the 50’s to the 70’s Big Three automakers signed gutless contracts because they feared work stoppages

    Go ahead, take your political lives in your hands, and risk a police work stoppage, and refuse to negotiate a contract with immunity provisions. Refuse to allow cops who have abused their authority to return to the force

    Frame it in terms of no murderers in blue
    You may lose the next election, but your replacements will not overturn your work

    A unions job is to represent their members
    Your job is to run the gov’t

    so, who is at fault in the end?

    1. Still the police. The ones who can’t stop shooting unarmed civilians.
      Who now seem to be targeting journalists in some areas.

      And, I suppose, those that defend them for doing that.

      The unions enable the problem no doubt, but don’t think they are the problem.

      1. “The unions enable the problem no doubt, but don’t think they are the problem.”

        Even if we have a policy which makes the problem less bad, why not use that policy even if it doesn’t immediately effect a 100% cure?

        1. …yes.

          Read me in this thread, do you think I’m pro-police unions?

  24. Re: the update, how is an additional .026 deaths a year a “substantial” increase? That’s one additional killing every 40 years-].

  25. ‘Police unions are the problem when black citizens are harassed and murdered by police officers in America — and let’s not mention clingers’ racism.’

    A predictable approach in an environment in which some people use racial slurs every chance they (think they) can get (away with it).

    Sometimes followed by an apology from the employer of the guy who can’t seem to avoid using racial slurs.

    1. COP 1: “Did you read that latest post by Eugene Volokh?”

      COP 2: “Yes, it really inspired me to go kill some black people!”

      1. Anyone who reads one of the Rev’s comments will see an endorsement of the idea that those people are not like me justifies bad behavior.

    2. Yes, every single person, every comment they make, has to to condemn racism, or they are racist. That clearly is not insane.

  26. It seems to me that this is far more than necessary to solve the immediate problem.

    The immediate problem can be addressed by taking a small set of severe issues, especially severe civil rights and corruption complaints, and handling them through a separate process that is more in the nature of a criminal inquiry than ordinary workplace discipline, and is outside the scope of union negotiations and workplace grievances.

    There are plenty of things police do that are like other workplaces. If they are disciplined for being late to work or having their shirt collars unbuttoned, there’s no reason union rules can’t apply. But there are things they do that are very different from other workplaces, that aren’t pure employee-management matters.

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