News & Politics

Defunding Police Is Fringe. But Police Unions Do Need Reform.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Minneapolis tweeted out some true insanity Thursday night. According to a couple of local elected officials, they will “dismantle” the police department and do…something else. Whatever they do, it’s “overdue.”

How is something “overdue” when you don’t even know what it is, and no one was even talking about it two weeks ago?

Other cities are now looking at “defunding” their police departments, which is to say, they’re hearing very loud shouts from hard-left activists that they defund their local police. It’s an insane idea only supported by criminals and rich Hollywood celebrities who can buy their own personal security, (and don’t care about the rest of us) and maybe 5% of Americans — maybe — if you go by the Monmouth poll I tore to shreds yesterday. That poll found a strong majority are satisfied with the local police, while just 5% are “very dissatisfied” with them. The defund advocates would have to come from that 5%, and may not even constitute a majority of that tiny set. Let’s be generous and give them that whole 5%. And all the criminals. It’s still fringe.

Nevertheless, Minneapolis is “dismantling” its police and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gutted some funding for that city’s police. That’s not quite the same as defunding, but it was done in the same spirit. Pretty much every large city will hear from advocates for defunding. They’re on the leftwing fringe, but who tends to vote in municipal elections?

Yeah. You can see the problem.

They’re virtue signaling to their base, and their base has a crazy idea that will destroy their cities.

As fringey and irresponsible as defunding would be, it will get at least a hearing. Some of the bigger mayoral pander bears out there will either do it or try to fool the advocates into believing that they did. Because they won’t actually dismantle whole departments. Residents and businesses would flee, crime rates would skyrocket, property values (and taxes) would crater. The 30 years of progress cities have made on reducing crime and presenting themselves as liveable will be gone in an instant.

None of this is to say that police don’t need reform. They do, probably not in all cities but certainly in some of the larger ones. And the most sensible reform available is reforming police unions because that deals directly with the ability to discipline and remove bad officers.

Lest you think I’m just a right-to-work advocate who doesn’t like unions (which is all true), let’s hear from Reuters. In 2017 Reuters examined 82 city contracts with police unions. Look at its top finding.

A majority of the contracts call for departments to erase disciplinary records, some after just six months, making it difficult to fire officers with a history of abuses. In 18 cities, suspensions are erased in three years or less. In Anchorage, Alaska, suspensions, demotions and disciplinary transfers are removed after two years.

San Antonio, TX tried to reform this specific issue in its police union contract a few years ago. The city had a very strong city manager at the time, Sheryl Sculley, with whom I worked on a different issue around the same time. The union spent a towering sum of money fighting this reform. Guess who won.

In the end, after two years of bitter negotiations, the sides agreed to a contract capping salaries and benefits at rates manageable for the city. But it did not include Sculley’s disciplinary changes. “The bottom line is that we could not change the contract,” she said.

Blue city, strong blue city manager, no police discipline reform. We have a similar problem with bad public school teachers, by the way. Because unions.

Derek Chauvin was the subject of quite a few complaints over his years in the MN PD prior to killing George Floyd. We don’t know the full details because the unions have made sure those get kept under wraps in far too many cities. The unions are protecting their source of money — police salaries — at the expense of the police’s mission of protecting us.

Changing city police union contracts would be the surest reform to getting rid of bad apples on police forces. But because the unions are involved, it’s unlikely to happen. The other night I posted this cynical take on the whole quandary on Facebook.

How do you know Democrat-run cities will not truly de-fund the police?

Those are union jobs.

How do you know needed reforms like getting rid of bad cops will be all but impossible?

Those are union jobs.

Change my mind.

Public sector unions should not exist, full stop. As Kruiser pointed out on our video chat the other day, Democrats love to cite FDR for everything. Well, FDR opposed public sector unions. He was right about that.

But the public sector unions do exist, Democrats do depend on them for vast sums of campaign cash every single election cycle, so they are not about to do what should obviously be done.

They would rather entertain the madness of “defunding” than dig in and make a real difference that would save lives and restore some comity between police and the policed.

If police discipline reform happens, it will be forced on cities in red state legislatures with Republican governors — not the blue cities and states where the problems tend to be.

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