Police Unions To City Officials: If You Want Good, Accountable Cops, You'll Need To Pay Them More

from the 5%-pay-raise-for-'not-making-things-worse' dept

Three police unions in different cities have come forward to insert their feet in their mouths following changes to department policies. The thrust of their terrible arguments? Cops should be paid more for doing their job properly.

In Cincinnati, officers are being outfitted with body cameras. This, of course, has sent the local Fraternal Order of Police into defense mode. The FOP sent a letter to the city stating that officers won’t be wearing the cameras until they’re given more money. The union apparently believes any increase in officer accountability should be accompanied by an increase in pay.

A lawyer for Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #69, Stephen Lazarus, sent the city a “cease and desist” letter, saying until pay for wearing the equipment has been decided, officers shouldn’t wear them. He asked that the city cease the program by Wednesday at the latest, pending the bargaining process.

The city’s mayor has already suggested he’d be willing to grant an across-the-board 5% pay increase, but the union wants additional pay on top of that, simply for wearing body cameras. The union insists that cameras will alter many facets of officers’ day-to-day duties, which — judging from other cities’ experiences with body cameras — apparently includes discovering ways of ensuring footage of questionable arrests and uses of force aren’t captured by the recording equipment.

Meanwhile, down in San Antonio, policies affecting misconduct punishments are receiving similar demands from that city’s police union.

The San Antonio Express-News reports that the San Antonio police union demanded higher pay in exchange for accepting changes to their collective bargaining agreement that would have delivered stricter discipline for officer misconduct.

The Express-News notes that right now “the contract limits how far back a chief can invoke prior misconduct in punishing an officer — no more than two years in most instances — and automatically reduces suspensions of three days or less to a reprimand after two years.”

Once again, a union is fighting officer accountability with increased salary demands. In both cases, neither union seems to understand (or care) how tone deaf these arguments are.

Police reform is needed because officers aren’t doing what they’re being paid to do, or they’re doing it in a way that results in civil rights lawsuits and DOJ interventions. The main obstacle to reform appears to be police unions, which often seem to offer hardline opposition to minor changes that even most of those supposedly represented by the union don’t agree with.

It would be one thing if law enforcement was a historically-underpaid profession. But it isn’t. These demands are simply a way to make cash-strapped cities rethink plans to introduce more accountability into the process.

But it’s not always the unions that are at fault. The rank-and-file has its own issues with increased accountability. The city of Boston is outfitting its officers with body cameras. The pilot program asked for volunteers to wear the recording devices. There were no takers.

When the City of Boston called on 100 volunteers from the police department to help pilot a body camera program, something very expected, predictable, and heard of happened: Nothing.

Even with $500 bonuses as a result of negotiations with their union, not a single police officer in Boston volunteered to wear a camera.

If no one responds when asked nicely, the optional aspect goes away.

Speaking during the monthly “Ask the Commissioner” segment on WGBH-FM’s Boston Public Radio on Tuesday, Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said that a consultant has selected officers of all ages and races from five sections of the city and the department’s Youth Violence Strike Force to wear the cameras for a six-month trial. Any officer selected who chooses not to wear the camera would be subject to disciplinary action, Evans said.

It’s not as though the police union here decided to sit this one out. When no officers volunteered to wear the cameras, the union claims that randomly selecting officers somehow breaches the department’s contract.

Boston Police Patrolman’s Association President Patrick M. Rose told the Herald that goes against the deal the union reached with the department, which he says specifically states participants must be volunteers.

“The selection process must be from volunteers,” Rose wrote in an email to the Herald, adding that the union still supports that agreement.

“To require non-volunteers to participate in the program would clearly violate the agreement,” he said. “The BPPA would hope that the City and the Department would honor its written agreement with the BPPA concerning (body cameras).”

The Boston Police chief saw it differently, however, pointing out that no volunteers stepping forward to take part in a voluntary program also violates the agreement.

Somewhat ironically, civil rights and accountability activists were skeptical of the volunteer pilot program, fearing that the only cops that would volunteer would be exemplary models of the law enforcement profession and unlikely to generate much footage of misconduct or abuse. What a relief it must be to discover the Boston PD has no officers that fit that description.

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Comments on “Police Unions To City Officials: If You Want Good, Accountable Cops, You'll Need To Pay Them More”

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Anonymous Coward says:

When I was a kid I was brought up under the impression that in order to effect desirable outcomes and rewards, you had to demonstrate good behavior first and act according to a mature example.

How is it that when adults are given more power and privilege, they end up regressing into the most petulant, bratty scumbags possible?

Anonymous Coward says:

If police across the country cared one bit about even starting to restore some of the trust with their communities they’d be volunteering to use body cams left and right. But that’s not the case, the culture within the police has become so engrained that it’s almost impossible to get them to see anything another way.

If the police officers refuse to wear body cams that provide a measure of accountability unless they get paid extra just to do so then those officers should be fired, period. We are long past the point when we can stick our heads in the sand saying it’s only a few bad apples and the rest are good people doing their jobs. No, they aren’t, and it’s being proven so every single day. There is a systemic problem in law enforcement and those in charge have to start to stand their ground and force the issue cause the police damn sure aren’t going to do it themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Always on video required

Considering how often we find video evidence that directly contradicts the recollection of the on site cops, we should no longer accept eye witness testimony unless it has video to go along with it. If we suddenly stopped giving the police extra powers, protection and a disproportionately skewed benefit of the doubt, they would embrace the body cameras as a good thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is just a scam by the police union to get a raise for their officers. Once they get their raise, their cops will go back to being bad cops. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

The only way to reform bad cops is to terminate them and replace them with fresh officers from the academy and start from scratch. The cops currently employed are the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe there is some truth to this

Someone paid lower wages are more likely to have a desire to do something extra to improve their income.

Some people might choose a 2nd job, for LEO’s you will often find them moonlighting at your local high crime area store as security guards, often still wearing their police uniforms.

Other people might choose to make the fast buck any way they can illegal or not.

So it is plausible that paying LEOs higher wages will result in some types of police misconduct being reduced.

But no matter what they get paid they need to be held accountable for their misconduct. If they do not like being held accountable for their actions as a LEO then maybe they should find a different job.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Maybe there is some truth to this

So it is plausible that paying LEOs higher wages will result in some types of police misconduct being reduced.

Possible but very, very unlikely I’d say. The kind of cop that uses their position for personal gain is not likely to stop doing so just because they got a raise, instead they’ll continue to abuse their position for personal gain and enjoy the raise.

We’re not talking about homeless, jobless people here doing anything they can to survive, breaking laws not because they want to but because they feel they have no other choice, we’re talking about people that have homes, have jobs, and that break the laws simply because they want to and/or it benefits them in some way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Maybe there is some truth to this

The kind of cop that uses their position for personal gain is not likely to stop doing so just because they got a raise

It’s not necessarily about whether better pay turns the same cops into better people, it’s about whether better pay attracts better cops to the same jobs: in particular, cops who currently have no reason to go anywhere near an inner-city policing job as long as they’re able to land a cushy gig out in the suburbs responding to noise complaints and manning stop sign traps. The way US policing works is all but deliberately designed to sort experienced/professional cops who don’t abuse their authority into the role of policing rich people, and amateur/unprofessional cops who do abuse their authority into the role of policing poor people. This also helps keep the pressure off unprofessional cops to clean up their act, because society at large generally doesn’t give a damn when poor people are abused. (Imagine if we responded to every case of police brutality or discrimination the way we responded to a case like Henry Louis Gates.)

Unless police are paid according to the difficulty and stress of their jobs, which is obviously much greater in poorer and more violent areas, this sorting mechanism will continue to do its ugly, discriminatory work.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Maybe there is some truth to this

Unless police are paid according to the difficulty and stress of their jobs, which is obviously much greater in poorer and more violent areas, this sorting mechanism will continue to do its ugly, discriminatory work.

That still strikes me as solving the wrong problem. If a cashier for example is skimming from the register the solution isn’t to pay them better it’s to fire them hire someone who’ll pay attention to the rules better next time.

Similarly if you’ve got rotten police it doesn’t seem like it would help much just to pay them better, as that would leave the rot in place. Instead you fire the worst, making it clear that abuse of power and authority does carry consequences. Paying more isn’t going to do squat about the rot and the draw for people who know that once you’re a cop you can do pretty much anything without repercussions, it’s just going to make the job even more attractive to those kinds of people.

As for the idea that they don’t get paid enough for the ‘difficulty and stress of the jobs’? Yeah, not sure how accurate overall it is, but the numbers I’m looking at at the moment seem to say otherwise.

From a ’10 most dangerous professions of 2016′ article in alphabetical order:

Job – Average annual salary
Construction laborer – $30,890
Correction officer – $40,580
Emergency medical technician – $31,980
Farmer – $64,170
Firefighter – $46,870
Nursing assistant – $25,710
Police officer – $60,270
Taxi driver – $23,510
Truck driver – $40,260
Veterinarian – $88,490

According to those numbers at least they rank #3 out of 10 as far as average annual pay goes.

Using 2013 BLS stats meanwhile I’m not even sure if cops make the list in the top 15.

‘Fatal work injury rate(per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers)’, pg 14:

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting – 23.2
Transportation and warehousing – 14.0
Mining, Quarrying, and oil and gas extraction – 12.4
Construction – 9.7
Wholesale trade – 5.3
Professional and business services – 2.8
Other services(exc. public admin) – 2.7
Utilities – 2.6
Manufacturing – 2.1
Government – 2.0
Retail trade – 1.9
Leisure and hospitality – 1.9
Information – 1.5
Financial activities – .9
Education and health services – .7

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Maybe there is some truth to this

That still strikes me as solving the wrong problem. If a cashier for example is skimming from the register the solution isn’t to pay them better it’s to fire them hire someone who’ll pay attention to the rules better next time.

Well saying “just fire the bums” doesn’t solve any problem at all, other than the need for moral grandstanding. Fire them… and replace them with whom exactly? More exactly like them? If there are better replacements out there, where do you find them and how do you convince them to apply?

There will always be better cops and worse cops, and we have a national system in which better cops are steered toward jobs policing wealthy people while worse cops are steered toward jobs policing poor people. Moreover, our police brutality problem is largely a problem of police brutality toward poor people (or toward people like Henry Gates who because of their ethnicity are mistaken for poor people), which combined with our society’s general indifference to the problems of the poor only encourages this brutality to continue unchecked. Accordingly, I see two interconnected solutions that involve working with the collective national police force we have instead of proposing to magically make bad cops vanish and conjure up better ones: first, steer some of the better cops into jobs policing poor people so they can have a positive influence on the existing police culture of casual brutality toward the poor; second, and just as importantly, steer some of the worse cops into jobs policing rich people so that the ruling class has a harder time ignoring their behavior.

Unless we’re proposing to draft cops into involuntary servitude, the only way to accomplish this resorting of good and bad cops would be to pay cops who police the poor much, much more than the ones who police the wealthy.

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Maybe there is some truth to this

I know of at least one person who is now working in IT because 6 years working with “worse cops” was all he could stomach.

This may also explain why no one volunteered. “Good cops” find it hard to be around the “bad cops” just the way most of don’t want to associate with those that under-perform and are disruptive at our jobs. You take only so much then leave/change careers.

I think it is quite plausible that getting rid of them will create a more attractive work environment.

Anonymous Coward says:


I work for the CPD and are doing the body cam rollout. We as 100% going forward with the rollout and basically ignoring the FOP. We already have two districts fully wearing the body cameras with no complaints and the Chief along with other other command staff are fully in the push to get accountability into place.
This is 100% just some ploy in a vein attempt to get money, the average officer we deal with doesn’t actually care. Their bigger concern is actually our recent switch to the new radio systems and how much they suck or how terrible our in car mobile data reception is for doing reports.
Cincinnati is actually a good police department that cares about the community. They have good internal accountability. It is a sham for the FOP to make the officers look bad across the country.

Anonymous Coward says:

AC/CFD person, thanks for posting that. Doesn’t surprise me that police unions act unilaterally. Police Unions are the problem. While unions are the problem. There is a perception problem when it comes to police unions and they do NOTHING to clean up the tarnished image that they project.

Instead, the only image the public gets is that ‘police unions protect police officers from losing their jobs when they are caught doing something wrong’. Police unions have the image that their only goal is keep bad officers officers on the job, even when they should be fired from the department for gross misconduct in the performance of their duties.

The public needs to see police unions taking a stand to weed out bad cops and that they need to stop with this ‘protect all cops under any cost’ policy. The CCRB also has the same image problem. It’s time to clean up police unions and the CCRB’s with each department.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problems are Unions in general. They’re corrupt!!! Early on they used to make sense. Now they’re just big power hungry entity’s that want more and more and more. They’ll drive a business right out of business or to stay alive leave the country. To protecting bad Police and Teachers.

If the police are doing their job as they are suppose to, Camera’s shouldn’t be any issue. In fact it can be a good thing for you on anyone filing a false report on you. You have video and audio proof you did noting wrong. If you’re corrupt, you have things to hide and a Camera is a bad thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey, think about it and stop cop hating for a second. Are we surprised when fast food workers don’t care about their job because they are paid so low? People say that teachers are entrusted with our children and that they should be paid more. We are trusting cops with protecting us and carrying weapons around citizens. If the salary for cops is low, isn’t it expected that lower quality people will apply for the jobs?

Forget about the danger that comes with the job, I know, you will say that if you don’t want the risk don’t take the job. Low pay and dangerous work. Who the hell do you expect to apply for the job. Of course you will get a bunch of steroid induced losers. When doesn’t “You get what you pay for” apply?

DNY (profile) says:

Re: Unfortunately "To Serve and Protect" is just a slogan

As the subject says, unfortunately “to serve and protect” is just a slogan. Part, perhaps only a small part, but part, nonetheless of the rot in American policing stems from the fact that according to the SCOTUS, police are not peace officers with a duty to protect the citizenry, their only function it to enforce the law. This can be fixed by the legislatures of the several states by creating a statutory requirement to protect the lives and property of citizens as part of the duties of police officers.

The vast bulk of your point is correct, but if “we” are trusting cops with protecting us, “we” are deluded. As it stands, they are not entrusted with protecting us, only with enforcing the law, and that only by arresting and bringing to trial those who have already broken it.

Isma'il says:

Re: Re:

“If the salary for cops is low, isn’t it expected that lower quality people will apply for these jobs?”

What a statement! There are a few problems with your assertion:

1. It’s like saying you shouldn’t give a damn about customers if you work at a store that pays less than another store. If you don’t like the pay, apply for a different job!

2. Cops are paid to enforce laws…..let me post that again in case you missed it. Cops are paid to enforce laws, regardless of the pay grade. If they didn’t like the rate they would be paid for the job, then they shouldn’t have applied for it–period. Low pay is no excuse for bad behaviour.

3. Cops are not paid to mete out “justice” and “punishment” how they see fit; that is what the courts are tasked to do. Again, if it’s a low-pay issue, then the applicant should’ve not taken the job.

Nice try correlating the pay structure to the quality of the work; with that assertion, it somewhat seems that you’re a bit of an underachiever, unless you’re paid handsomely. That isn’t the way it works in the real world: Where the blame rests on the officer for their behaviour because they should know better and if they don’t like the pay, then don’t take the job!

Anonymous Coward says:

To state what should be the obvious re: law enforcement as an underpaid profession...

The author makes no effort to distinguish between the payscales of urban versus suburban police departments, especially relative to higher urban costs of living. Indeed, a central aspect of the problem is that because suburban departments are able to pay more for jobs with much much less stress, “good” officers in major metro departments have every incentive to seek out these jobs as soon as they’ve gained enough experience. (Basically the exact same problem exists with public school teachers too.) The broad takeaway here is that the US system of highly localized funding for basic public services tends to function as a tool for maintaining discrimination and inequality.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"Oh you misunderstand me, it wasn't a request."

The cities/states should make it clear that no in fact, there will be no raises in order to somehow incentivize cops to do their damn jobs properly, but there are punishments for failure to do so.

Police are required to wear body-cams. If one of them doesn’t want to accept this then they are more than welcome to find another job where body-cams aren’t required.

The police and their unions have spent years, decades even I’d say doing everything they could to avoid holding their own accountable and get rid of the blatantly rotten from their number(as opposed to the mild and moderately rotten that comprises the majority). They’ve demonstrated that if accountability is to be had, it’s going to have to come from somewhere other than them, hence the body-cams(even if they do everything they can to sabotage those too). They can whine all they want about how it’s ‘unfair’ and ‘invasive’, but they have no-one to blame but themselves for it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"But, how am I suppose to feel powerful without my gun?"

A lawyer for Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #69, Stephen Lazarus, sent the city a “cease and desist” letter, saying until pay for wearing the equipment has been decided, officers shouldn’t wear them. He asked that the city cease the program by Wednesday at the latest, pending the bargaining process.

Re-reading that it occurred to me: Are the police currently being paid to wear their other equipment? I mean if not being paid to wear a given piece of equipment means they can’t wear it, sounds like it’s time to start taking away some of their toys.

Not being paid to carry a gun? Say good-bye to the gun.
Not being paid to carry pepper-spray and/or taser? Say good-bye to both.
Not being paid to carry cuffs? That’s out too.

If the ‘Fraternal Order of Police Lodge’ wants to play the ‘You have to be paid to wear a particular piece of equipment’ game sounds like it’s time to start taking away a lot of the toys their members currently have on them. Should they object to that by claiming that the other gear is just ‘part of the uniform/standard equipment’ then great, their complaint is void, because that now includes the body-cam. All or nothing, body-cam and the other gear or no gear at all.

CyberKender says:

While I accept that LEO’s probably should be paid more, giving them more money will not change the sort of person they are. One of the major things that should be done is more money spent *on* each officer, rather than put into his/her pocket. Specifically, a lot more comprehensive training before they are put into the field. Extensive training in de-escalation first, personal preservation second.

Al says:

They have a point

I know police officers who’s kids qualify for Medicaid. As with any job (teacher’s included) you have to pay well to attract quality people. If a police officer could expect a $100k salary, you would attract better candidates with brains. That’s not to say it would make the current officers better, but it would bring better people to the force in the first place.

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