Police Union Thinks Cops Should Receive Less Scrutiny Than Retail Workers

from the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-arbitration! dept

Police unions are working tirelessly towards destroying any remaining shreds of respectability. Presumably, they once served a purpose roughly aligned with the public good. Now, they serve the singular purpose of ensuring our nation’s law enforcement agencies will always be forced to keep the abusive, incompetent officers on their payroll.

No entity has spoken out more frequently about the supposed damage body-worn cameras will do. Meanwhile, many officers appear to have made peace with the new technology, much as they had with dash cams. No entity has continued to voice its resistance to anything approaching accountability as vociferously as our nation’s police unions. If you want to see what’s wrong with today’s policing and why it won’t be changing anytime soon, all you have to do is spend a few minutes talking to a union rep.

Out in Pittsburgh, the local police union wants cops to be held to a lower standard than retail employees.

The union representing Pittsburgh police officers has filed a civil rights grievance against the city, claiming officers have been ordered to undergo drug and alcohol testing that is in violation of their contract.

The union tells Channel 11’s Rick Earle that the testing amounts to an illegal search and seizure that is not only in violation of the contract, but the Constitution as well.

Perhaps the union will be surprised to know that these supposed “Constitutional violations” occur daily at nearly every major employer. They are required before applicants are hired and random checks are often performed post-hire as well. Why the union feels police officers — who should hold themselves to higher standards than the average hourly worker — should be exempt from this extraordinarily common practice isn’t clear.

The only thing it offers in its defense is that the contract signed with the city only specifies three times cops can be tested: after firing weapons, being involved in a car accident, or are “suspected of being under the influence.” Why the additional testing of three officers involved in a car chase suddenly rises to the level of Constitutional violation is something only the union can suss out. And it seems to have confused “violated the terms of an agreement” with “violated officers’ Fourth Amendment rights.”

Because if the test is a violation of civil rights in this particular circumstance, then it’s a violation of rights even under the terms of the agreement. The union reps seem to have opted for drama, rather than accuracy, which is kind of standard operating procedure. I mean, it’s not as though the Pittsburgh PD needs to swear out a warrant to obtain the fluids requested in the circumstances permitted by the agreement.

Police officers should be subject to random drug and alcohol testing just like everyone else in the nation’s workforce. Considering most states tie implied consent to drug/alcohol testing to the issuance of drivers licenses, it’s really not too much to ask that people in powerful government positions be subject to the same expectations.

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Comments on “Police Union Thinks Cops Should Receive Less Scrutiny Than Retail Workers”

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76 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Crystal clear actually

Why the union feels police officers — who should hold themselves to higher standards than the average hourly worker — should be exempt from this extraordinarily common practice isn’t clear.

‘Isn’t clear’ only if you ignore past actions and statements by police unions. If you do take those into account however the reasoning is abundantly clear: the various police unions are firmly against anything that even could result in police being held accountable for their actions, whether that be bodycams, or in this case drug-tests.

Body-cams could result in showing a cop not following the law, or acting in a manner ‘less than professionally’, therefore they object to them. Drug tests could result in a cop being found to be acting under the influence, therefore they object to them. Anything that might result in police misconduct or abuse of authority being known is something they object to, it’s really that simple.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Crystal clear actually

I reiterate my point that the police unions ar ehte most toxic part of the police/public discourse.

Very much so, yes.

As the ‘public face’ for the police, how the unions and their reps act influence how people see them and those they are supposed to be representing, and when you see the unions time and time again defending the absolute worst of the lot among the police, or in this case demanding special treatment above and beyond what others expect in their jobs, then they all come out looking bad.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Crystal clear actually

It doesn’t matter if it’s body cams, drug tests or whatever. The moment the cop joins the police force, society grants him/her powers that may severely harm the ordinary citizen if misused even causing death (or worse, permanent trauma, harassment). Once you wield that kind of power you should be held to a much higher standard. Actually, any representative of the people should be treated following the same logic. So, yes, abuse of power and other violations like working under drugs that can hinder your best judgment should be severely punished or at least dismissed from working to the people (aka in the Government).

al baker (profile) says:

“Considering most states tie implied consent to drug/alcohol testing to the issuance of drivers licenses”

Quite by accident you’ve seem to have presented a solution to the problem. Set up a DUI checkpoint on the entrance/exit to the Police Station car park and “randomly” check drivers passing through. Warrantless breath and blood takings whenever you want. For the win!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hire a group of independents to do these tests. License them. Make them unpaid (or very very low pay) but offer them a HUGE commission for anyone they do catch breaking the law. Require police officers to undergo tests by those licensed at the discretion of those with the license to conduct these tests. If their income is mostly commissioned they will now have incentive to catch lawbreakers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Allow ANYONE with no prior criminal conviction to become licensed upon passing a test. It’s not a job you apply and get selected for, it’s more akin to applying for a business license to become an independent. Make sure the test isn’t unreasonably difficult or expensive to take and that the license is not unreasonably expensive to acquire and maintain.

ECA (profile) says:

REALLY??

“Police Union Thinks Cops Should Receive Less Scrutiny Than Retail Workers”

The Chain I worked in for 8 years, installed $2 million for cameras and security into our building…Over 60% was on the employees..more cameras were on the employees then customers.

If your register was OFF, more then $5, it was reported…
You could be fired for Servicing another employee at a register, that was a friend..
If you didnt follow Check/CC protocols, to the letter…FIRED.

We signed Protocol Papers Every 3 months..

We were checked by secret shoppers ALL THE TIME..

cutting HOURS, never the same days off, SPLIT days off, and TRYING to make ends meet..

Cutting the number of employees..

GET A HINT HERE…I WISH they had the same..
1 BAD word in front of a customer, and you WOULD BE FIRED..

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: REALLY??

In fairness to the employer, most “shrinkage” (theft) in retail is due to employees, not customers.

That said, if the working conditions are unreasonable, the responsible thing is to quit. If enough people do that, they’ll have no choice but to improve them.

Of course, everyone has to make a living.

But there are other jobs, and other employers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wait up… as a right winger, I despise ALL UNIONS for public/government employees. Teachers & Police Unions are go to examples of corrupt & evil unions.

The ONLY union of value is the one formed to fight corporate corruption/abuse of employees AND the one dissolved when the problem has been rectified.

There should be no law for or against unionization, EXCEPT in the public/government sector. People should eternally be free to create and dissolve unions at will without undue interference from the courts OR from right to work, or Union states!

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

It’s a violation of their union contract to undergo drug and alcohol testing? Did I miss something? Every business, every government agency, every retailer … any job you take requires potential employees to undergo drug and alcohol testing. It’s actually a requirement before you are considered for employment. Police officers are paid for by tax dollars and are subject to the same rules.

I don’t know if I would feel safe if a police officer in my neighborhood was hopped up on drugs and alcohol. The very fact that they also have a badge and a gun makes that a dangerous situation.

What also makes this even worse is that if you were accused of drug and alcohol abuse, the police would confiscate your guns and you would lose your gun licenses. What the hell is going on here?

Did we suddenly become a communist country?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s a violation of their union contract to undergo drug and alcohol testing? Did I miss something?

Sorta, they can be tested, it’s just it has to happen under very specific circumstances, and unless I’m missing something, ‘random’ isn’t one of them, so while the cashier at the grocery store can face a random drug test, the police in that city cannot.

The only thing it offers in its defense is that the contract signed with the city only specifies three times cops can be tested: after firing weapons, being involved in a car accident, or are “suspected of being under the influence.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

This raises another question, what does the contract say about the details of that third clause? Is it left vague, or is it rigidly defined? Who can suspect the officer, their supervisor, a citizen, a fellow officer?

There is always more to the story, but the city is getting caught with a contract that is clearly favoring the union significantly more than the citizens.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

the city is getting caught with a contract that is clearly favoring the union significantly more than the citizens

That’s pretty much the case with all police union contracts. They have been re-negotiated over and over and with the result of a city not agreeing to a contract being no law enforcement officers available, they have quite a lot of leverage.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The one time I went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the police were on strike and the National Guard (not very national as they are organized by the states) were on duty. Unfortunately only the Governor can call them out and small towns will have a hard time convincing the Governor that the National Guard should come to their piece of Podunk while a new police force is hired without a union.

In some ways I feel it was the only thing Reagan got right, firing the Air Traffic Controllers. There is something to be said for institutional knowledge but I would hesitate to hire some other departments rejects, with or without a union.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They should be tested more.

The city does not in any way have the funds to test every officer daily. Few cities would have the funds to test every officer regularly, and much of that money would still be better spent on other things (for example body cameras and community outreach programs).

That being said, testing officers after a major occurrence such as a car chase is a reasonable protection to ensure that the officers acted appropriately.

Random tests may not be allowed by contract, but unless this article is bias and completely ignores parts of the full contract, I would venture to guess that “suspecting” an officer of being under the influence is an incredibly low standard to pass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yay!

Finally a situation where you don’t like the fourth amendment!

Seriously. Every other fourth amendment issue techdirt is on the side of the Constitution, but when it’s people you don’t like, its bad. That’s not how rights work.

Government employees are citizens and still protected by the Constitution, even against their employers. There are exceptions, but I don’t remember the last time techdirt was in favor of exceptions to constitutional rights either.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Yay!

Perhaps the union will be surprised to know that these supposed “Constitutional violations” occur daily at nearly every major employer. They are required before applicants are hired and random checks are often performed post-hire as well. Why the union feels police officers — who should hold themselves to higher standards than the average hourly worker — should be exempt from this extraordinarily common practice isn’t clear.

Because if the test is a violation of civil rights in this particular circumstance, then it’s a violation of rights even under the terms of the agreement. The union reps seem to have opted for drama, rather than accuracy, which is kind of standard operating procedure. I mean, it’s not as though the Pittsburgh PD needs to swear out a warrant to obtain the fluids requested in the circumstances permitted by the agreement.

I didn’t read it as anything to do with not liking the fourth amendment, so much as pointing out that in every other job drug tests are expected as a part of the job, and the union is objecting that their precious officers might be treated the same. As well, if they’re going to object to the tests in this case as ‘constitutional violations’, to be consistent they’d have to be objecting to any drug tests, which is not the case, as the contract clearly allows them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Yay!

When the officer is involved in an incident that could be influenced by said drugs/alcohol, it would be reasonable to test for such influence.

The police consent, via contract, to certain tests. If a test is demanded outside of this contract and without the sort of circumstances that would allow them to force a citizen to be tested… then yes, it IS a fourth amendment violation, because their employer is the government. Consent was not given, so get a warrant if you want to test them so badly. But somehow I think you’ll need more than “the officer was involved in a chase” to get probable cause.

If the police had a contract restricting what they could say while on the job, and the government then used that to fire them for giving a speech while off the clock, that would be a violation of free speech rights, not a mere contract dispute. If the contract called for working 40 hours per week and they forced them to work 18 hours a day 7 days a week and didn’t allow them to quit, that would be slavery, not a difference in opinion on working hours. And if they searched them for drugs in a circumstance not called for by the contract or by probable cause, that’s a fourth amendment violation. Right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Yay!

I don’t approve of opposition to civil rights when you don’t like the people receiving the benefits of those rights. Civil rights apply to everyone, no exceptions to the Fourth for cops, or to the First for journalists either.

If you’re going to accuse me of not understanding the bill of rights, it would help if you’d mention how you think I don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: That old saw...

No so fast…

The actions of a person make them. I hold no officer in esteem because you cannot find a single one of them that is honest!

In fact I challenge that you can find one. Officers are not only at liberty to lie to people but also encouraged to lie to them. They often arrest people and seize property and possessions in contravention of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th amendments consistently on Daily and even HOURLY basis!

Let me MAKE THIS CLEAR! The Law Enforcement community is SO CORRUPT that even the actual nice guys you speak of are CORRUPT AS WELL (even if they do not want to be) and for some reason you just do not seem to even know it. This is what you call a level of corrupt so common, so accepted that corrupt is no longer seen for what is is!!!

Yes is is possible for nice people to still work in law enforcement, but NEVER make the mistake they are not corrupt in this system as it stands today. It is IMPOSSIBLE to serve and remain in that service without becoming corrupt no matter how nice you are!

As it is written, you cannot serve two masters!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How about testing Congress and state lawmakers?

All members of congress, both federal and state, are receiving government funds and therefore are subject to drug testing. If found to be clean, they are re-reimbursed. If not clean, they lose their government funding and are enrolled in a rehab program which they have to pay for.

David (profile) says:

There is one minor difference

This is not to say that I don’t agree it is a good idea, but…

Search and seizure protections are much like free speech protections. The fact is that in both cases, the Bill of Rights only protect us from Government action; Government interference with speech, Government search and seizure. Cops work for our local governments. Retail workers work for a private company which is not bound by the Bill of Rights.

That being said, when I was in the Navy, back in the ’80s, they did drug testing.

Dan (profile) says:

So much fail...

While I agree with your bottom line, some of the reasoning here is pretty bad. I do agree that police officers should be subject to random drug testing. I’m a Soldier, and I am; I face criminal charges if I can’t pee in a cup on command. But with that said…

The Fourth Amendment. Come on, you know this. The Fourth Amendment restrains (in theory) the government, not private people or companies. If my private employer wants me to submit a urine sample every day under threat of termination, there’s no Fourth Amendment issue there–but if my government employer demands that, there is. A government employer can implement drug testing without violating the Fourth Amendment, but they need to do it right.

The contract. Well, it depends on exactly what the contract says, which neither you nor I know. If it says, “officers may be tested only in circumstances X, Y, and Z,” and the department is trying to require drug tests under circumstance A, they most likely lose. If the contract says, “officers may be tested in circumstances X, Y, and Z,” without stating whether that’s an exclusive list or note, it’s a closer case, but I’d guess the department still loses.

Implied consent. Well, there’s an express law that says you impliedly consent to testing by driving. If you think that should apply to wearing a badge, then amend the law. They aren’t the same thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So much fail...

>>Implied consent. Well, there’s an express law that says you impliedly consent to testing by driving. If you think that should apply to wearing a badge, then amend the law. They aren’t the same thing.

A lot of cops are paid to be behind the wheel (or handlebars or reins as may be – I suspect in many jurisdictions a horse = a motorcycle = a car at least on public streets), as part of their job.

By the logic of implied consent they’re susceptible to drug testing at any time, badge or no.

And unless things have changed dramatically in the last X years, since cops are paid to drive (or ride) then they fall under DOT rules. And those rules have a lot to say about random drug testing and driving (or riding) while under the influence.

The trouble with that line of thought is, who’s going to enforce it and carry out the random drug tests.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So much fail...

…If my private employer wants me to submit a urine sample…there’s no Fourth Amendment issue there–but if my government employer demands that, there is…

What about government mandated testing for private employers?

All trucking and motor coach companies are required to have a random test program as a condition of receiving a DOT number (said number required to be posted on all applicable vehicles). The laws and regulations actually apply to all employees of the company, including those who will never touch a vehicle! If you read some of the trucks – not the trailers – you’ll see company names that are different or read like a wholly-owned subsidiary; example being “WalMart Transportation, LLC” instead of “WalMart Stores”. The reason for that is so only those employees subject to testing will be on the employee roster; any other employee who will never touch a vehicle (think secretaries, bookkeepers, and custodians) will be on the employee roster of a different company not subject to testing. Testing costs money, and if the company can avoid the cost it will.

And random testing does not stop drivers from being under the influence. In my area the last three years there’s been no less than three fatal accidents involving a CDL found under the influence. One of them also involved exceeding hours of service, but that’s another story.

Anonymous Coward says:

Think of the cost savings

As the early part of the article points out, police unions go out of their way to protect officers from accountability for bad actions. Therefore, we can assume that, if an officer were to test positive, the union would go out of its way to minimize the damage that the test does to his career. Therefore, by not testing him, we save the expense of running a test that will, ultimately, have no negative effect on the officer, regardless of what the test shows.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

This could backfire against every employer in the country who could be pressured into halting drug testing. Because if this police union succeeds in stopping police officers from getting drug tested, employers are going to hold police unions all across the country responsible for this bullshit.

Employers, no matter if they are public or private or government, have the right to require drug testing of its employees if they suspect drug or alcohol use or if they are suspected to be under the influence of such drugs or alcohol.

These police unions have created a major screw-up over this, there is no way they can win on this issue, even if they succeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I disagree!

No company should EVER have a RIGHT or the power to force someone to take a drug test. What people do on their own time is their business!

As long as said employee shows up to work and performs to a satisfactory degree, does not disrupt the work place, or otherwise do anything illegal while on duty all should be well!

If a person does show up high, drunk, belligerent, or hostile then you can can them for misconduct!

There is just simply no reason to run around randomnly testing people for drugs, it is an invasion of privacy and with medical technology getting better everyday will lead to anyone discovering your medical condition which is HIPPA protected from smell, body fluid, or other creative methods.

High technology and our incessant desire to tell everyone how they should live their life is what leads to war. Every culture, religious or not, & every political walk of life seeks to control you in some form or fashion… we need to make sure we minimize the control so that it cannot be used for tyranny! And you are advocating tyranny!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve told recruiters that I will submit to drug tests… but not gladly, except under two circumstances:
1) government contractual requirements – where the company has no choice but to conduct the testing. Includes security clearance.
2) heavy machinery operation – you really don’t want someone wielding dangerous machinery while in an altered state of consciousness.

Beyond that, only two things:
1) Does the CEO also get drug tested?
2) If I submit to your drug test, will you show me his/her results?

What? You “can’t”? Privacy issues? You don’t see the irony here, do you…

Anon says:

Going the wrong way...

I think the police unions are right – drug tests are a constitutional violation. Here in Canada, that sort of thing is unheard of. perhaps the police union should be spearheading civil rights for retail workers. Who knows, they might make some friends for a change.

IMHO if a person is under the influence, they should be fired; if typically under the influence at work, then their boss should be fired – for being so out of touch with what’s happening in their department that they don’t notice. That’s why there are bosses – all the surveillance cameras, drug tests, etc. won’t correct procedure.

As for drugs outside of work hours – none of the employer’s f****ng business.

As for the retail worker discussing oppressive working conditions… vote Trump. (…He said sarcastically). The one intelligent thing Trump said a while ago was to make the electronic online ID verification work, so you could prosecute employers who hire illegals.

Create a real shortage of workers, and employers will be falling over themselves to offer good working conditions and good pay – or will have to close their doors. As long as there is a subclass that will work for any pay, and never complain about conditions, there is an incentive for employers to shovel more crap onto their workers.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Going the wrong way...

The problem is we have cops shoot unarmed people in the back and the union cheerleads them being placed on duty, even after the alleged wheels of justice have ruled against the officer. They go back on the force, get back pay and full pension rights before they screw up again and are allowed to retire to avoid a huge fight over holding them accountable under the law.

If an officer suspects you have drugs, they can use all sorts of field tests on you why are the officers different?

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

After all, Canada is part of the British Empire …

I think WW2 pretty much finished off the British Empire. We had The Commonwealth for some time afterward, but I’m not sure where that is these days. Canada “repatriated” its constitution a few decades ago cutting whatever ties were left, and now we just politely smile and clap (just like you in The Colonies do) when the royal family waves at us.

It’s very funny watching the US go gaga over British royalty, as if they were Hollywood stars or something. Now, the Brits admire your imperialism while you admire their royalty. Very odd.

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