Police Unions Head To DC To Ask New President, Attorney General To Stop Making Cops Respect The Constitution
from the what's-best-for-cops-vs.-what's-best-for-the-nation dept
Here it comes -- the exact sort of response Trump was looking for when he issued his "Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community" edict during his first couple of days in office.
One of the fundamental rights of every American is to live in a safe community. A Trump Administration will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration. President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.
This is Trump's invitation to law enforcement agencies to come to him with their grievances. A promise that they will be heard, ABOVE the voices of the people they're supposed to be serving. And here they come, right on cue.
Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, had a blunt message for Donald Trump during a meeting in September: court-ordered reforms aimed at curbing police abuses in the midwestern city are not working.
Loomis and two other attendees said Trump seemed receptive to Loomis's concerns that federally monitored police reforms introduced during the Obama administration in some cities in response to complaints of police bias and abuse are ineffective and impose an onerous burden on police forces.
Police unions want DOJ consent decrees rolled back, heavily-altered, or done away with altogether. A review of DOJ consent decrees shows law enforcement agencies hit with them have participated in years of unconstitutional policing, engaging in everything from discrimination to routine deployment of excessive force.
The decrees -- while seldom completely effective -- target pervasive mass violations of citizens' civil liberties. They address the symptoms and attempt to apply a cure. But the problems are deep-seated, based on years of us v. them policing and a culture that actively protects its worst members.
Unions are part of the problem. They are definitely not part of the solution. In Philadelphia, the police union managed to derail an officer-involved-shooting investigation board recommended by the DOJ, removing all independent outside investigators and replacing them with police officers and police officials.
The DOJ's long, thoroughly-damning report on what may be America's worst police force -- the Chicago PD -- notes that police unions have long stood in the way of improving the department.
Here’s a list of other CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) provisions that the feds said hamper investigations of police misconduct and should be change:.
- The contracts allow officers accused of misconduct or involved in shootings to delay interviews.
- The agreements mandate disclosure of a complainant’s identity to an accused officer before questioning, which is problematic because many complainants fear police retaliation.
- The agreements limit investigations into misconduct complaints filed more than five years after an incident, and requires the destruction of most disciplinary records older than five years.
“The City fails to conduct any investigation of nearly half of police misconduct complaints,” the report said. “In order to address these ignored cases, the City must modify its own policies, and work with the unions to address certain CBA provisions, and in the meantime, it must aggressively investigate all complaints to the extent authorized under these contracts.”
The last thing most police unions want is more accountability. This is why union heads are in DC, talking to Trump. Consent decrees attempt to force law enforcement agencies to act constitutionally, which is apparently something officers (or at least their reps) are unwilling to do.
The police groups want to discuss the decrees with Jeff Sessions, Trump's designee for attorney general who has voiced criticism of them, although any renegotiation would be legally complicated because all parties as well as a federal judge must approve any changes.
"There are certainly decrees that are inartfully applied that we'd like to see revisited," said Jim Pasco, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union with 330,000 members. It endorsed Trump in September and has worked with Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, for years while lobbying Congress for pro-police policies.
"We've always found him a man who's willing to listen to alternatives to a previously charted course," Pasco said of Sessions.
"Inartfully applied" just means "applied." The DOJ has "inartfully" attempted to get officers in numerous police departments to stop beating and tasing individuals simply because they weren't immediately compliant or responded disrespectfully. It has attempted to set a reasonable suspicion standard for police stops and searches. It has attempted to prevent officers from acting in a retaliatory manner against people exercising their First Amendment rights. It has attempted to scale back excessive removals of citizens' life and liberty by law enforcement officers. It has largely failed to do so because it encounters massive amounts of resistance, much of it led by police unions.
And here come the unions to undo what little good has been done. The union reps say things like "inartfully applied decrees" and "wastes of money" but what they're really saying is they would rather not have to be limited by the rights of others. And, according to Trump's own statement, the President himself has little respect for the rights of non-badge-wearing individuals.
The only good news is that -- despite Trump's "law and order" pitch and AG Sessions' general contempt for Americans and their rights -- it will take much more than some union sales pitches to undo consent decrees already in force. The Attorney General may be able to prevent the DOJ's Civil Rights division from pursuing nearly as many agreements in the future, but it's likely any attempt to scale back in-place agreements would face an uphill battle in federal court.
But this very likely means the DOJ isn't going to be nearly as interested in investigating law enforcement agencies for the next four years. The DOJ handed out 24 consent decrees during the eight years Obama was in office. It issued less than half as many while Bush was president. A president who believes not liking the police is "wrong" isn't going to be too interested in having a government agency find even more reasons for people not to like police officers.