Posts Tagged ‘police unions’

Police and prosecution roundup

  • After parking lot shooting Pinellas County, Florida sheriff “claim[ed] his hands were tied by Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But that is not true” [Jacob Sullum, Reason, more; David French, NRO]
  • Major USA Today story on origins of Baltimore’s devastating crime and murder wave [Brad Heath; Jonathan Blanks, Cato]
  • Related: in Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force police scandal, plea bargains punished the innocent [Capital News Service investigation by Angela Roberts, Lindsay Huth, Alex Mann, Tom Hart and James Whitlow: first, second, third parts]
  • California Senate votes 26 to 11 to abolish felony murder rule, under which participants in some serious crimes face murder rap if others’ actions result in death [ABA Journal, bill]
  • New Jersey’s reforms curtailing cash bail, unlike Maryland’s, seem to be working reasonably well [Scott Shackford; longer Shackford article on bail in Reason; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • “Miami Police Union Says Head-Kicking Cop ‘Used Great Restraint,’ Shouldn’t Be Charged” [Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times]

Sentencing to serve symbolism: the Protect and Serve Act

Moving rapidly through Congress with bipartisan backing: “a new bill modeled after a federal hate crime statute would make it a crime to intentionally target a law enforcement officer based on his ‘actual or perceived status’ as one.” [Emanuella Grinberg, CNN]

I argued in 2015 that this idea is a very bad one, as well as unneeded, even at the state and local level. Beyond that, doing it as a federal enactment is of dubious constitutionality [Ilya Somin] More: office of Sen. Orrin Hatch (quoting Fraternal Order of Police chief Chuck Canterbury on bill’s being “modeled after the federal hate crime statute”). Killings of police in the line of duty declined last year and are at far lower levels than in the 1970s and 1980s, setting 50-year lows by some standards.

Police roundup

  • BBC on Baltimore police gun trace task force scandal [Jessica Lussenhop] Didn’t even bother using the real kind: “Baltimore Cops Carried Toy Guns to Plant on People They Shot, Trial Reveals” [Drew Schwartz, Vice]
  • Kentucky state police to media: do not put anything out about our investigations on social media “until OUR (KSP) press release is sent out.” Really? [Scott Greenfield]
  • “In unmarked cars, Orlando, Fla. officers box in car whose occupants are suspected of not wearing seatbelts; the driver drives off; the police catch up, ram the car, and shoot the driver dead. Allegation: Contrary to the officers’ testimony, the driver wasn’t about to run over an officer when he was killed; he couldn’t have, as the car’s engine had died after police rammed the vehicle. Eleventh Circuit: Qualified immunity. (H/t: Police4aqi.)” [John K. Ross, “Short Circuit”]
  • Police unionization may increase misconduct: “Our primary result is that collective bargaining rights lead to about a 27% increase in complaints of officer misconduct for the typical sheriff’s office.” [Dhammika Dharmapala, Richard H. McAdams, and John Rappaport via Jonathan Adler]
  • Dept. will publish accounts of misconduct investigations, but with names of officers omitted: “NYPD Argues They Simply Can’t Be More Transparent About Its Violent Cops” [Molly Osberg, Splinter News]
  • Michigan: “Seven Current and Former Police Officers Charged with 101 Felony Counts related to Fraudulent Auto Inspections”
    [Attorney General Bill Schuette]

Police misconduct roundup

  • “Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights” laws give police officers interrrogated over suspected misconduct a wide range of rights not enjoyed by general citizenry under like circumstances [Alex Tabarrok, earlier] Followup: “A new paper, The Effect of Collective Bargaining Rights on Law Enforcement: Evidence from Florida, suggests that police union privileges significantly increase the rate of officer misconduct” [same]
  • Courts should retain power to scrutinize arrests motivated by First Amendment retaliation even when probable cause is also present [Ilya Shapiro and Matthew Larosiere on SCOTUS case of Lozman v. Riviera Beach, Florida]
  • “Aurora police union: City should let cop fired over hidden cameras used to spy on ex-wife go back to work” [Hannah Leone, Aurora, Ill., Beacon-News]
  • “Even if consent decrees don’t do squat to fix police impropriety,” the appointed monitors make out well [Scott Greenfield]
  • “Hancock County, W.V. officer is convicted, sentenced to 18 months in prison for beating up drunk motorist who displayed insufficient respect. Officer: The trial court erred by letting the jury know about those other times I beat up people who failed to respect my authority. Fourth Circuit: We’re OK with it.” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, on U.S. v. Cowden]
  • “Internal NYPD files show that hundreds of officers who committed the most serious offenses — from lying to grand juries to physically attacking innocent people — got to keep their jobs, their pensions, and their tremendous power over New Yorkers’ lives” [Kendall Taggart and Mike Hayes, BuzzFeed]

NYC police union may cut back courtesy cards

Patrick Lynch, boss of New York’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), is reportedly slashing “the number of ‘get out of jail free’ courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends… to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post. The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.” [Dean Balsamini, New York Post; also the topic of a discussion in our comments section]

Perfect New York touch: the anonymous griping in the Post comes from sources who complain that things aren’t corrupt enough in that cards aren’t being distributed as freely as before. The courtesy cards are sold on eBay for prices that can range up to $200, but awareness of their commercial availability is said to be one reason “plastic [lowest-level] cards are being honored less and less by officers.”

Alex Tabarrok quotes one source on “gold” (family member) and “silver” (most favored civilian) card levels, and another with extensive reflections on the workings of “professional courtesy,” which can include retaliation against officers who incautiously “write over the card” by ticketing someone with police connections.

Commentary from my colleague Julian Sanchez:

Think about the message these cards send to every officer who’s expected to honor them. They say that the law—or at least, some ill-defined subset of it—isn’t a body of rules binding on all of us, but something we impose on others—on the people outside our circle of personal affection. They say that in every interaction with citizens, you must pay special attention to whether they are members of the special class of people who can flout laws, or ordinary peons who deserve no such courtesy. They say that, at least within limits, officers of the law should expect to be able to break the law and not be punished for it. They say that a cop who has the temerity to hold another officer or their family to the same standards as everyone else is a kind of traitor who should expect to suffer dire consequences for the sin of failing to respect that privileged status. Moreover, they say that this is not merely some unspoken understanding—a small deviation from impartial justice to be quietly tolerated—but a formalized policy with the explicit support of police leadership.

Can we really be surprised, when a practice like this is open and normalized, that the culture it both reveals and reinforces has consequences beyond a few foregone speeding tickets? Should we wonder that police fail to hold their own accountable for serious misconduct when they’re under what amounts to explicit instructions to make exceptions for smaller infractions on a daily basis?

And Ed Krayewski:

The cards cut to the heart of the problem with public-sector unions: They create an environment where government employees who are supposed to ‘serve and protect’ the public instead get extra privileges. This is particularly dangerous with police unions, whose membership is armed by the state to enforce laws. Such unions regularly push for rules that protect bad cops.

In Minnesota, “Convicted, But Still Policing”

“Over the past two decades, hundreds of Minnesota law enforcement officers have been convicted of criminal offenses. Most were never disciplined by the state…. Records also show that scores of the convictions stemmed from off-duty misconduct — including brawls, stalking and domestic altercations — that raise questions about an officer’s temperament for a job that authorizes the use of force.” [Jennifer Bjorhus and MaryJo Webster, Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Coming Oct. 18: Cato all-day conference on Criminal Justice at the Crossroads, speakers include Hon. Jed Rakoff, Clark Neily, Jeffrey Miron, Suja Thomas, Scott Greenfield, register here or watch online;
  • A bail bond agent’s letter to the editor responding to my Wall Street Journal piece on Maryland bail reform;
  • Domestic violence: Ontario Court of Appeal rules cultural differences cannot justify lighter sentence in criminal cases [Toronto Star, 2015]
  • “Police Union Complains That Public Got to See Them Roughing Up Utah Nurse” [Scott Shackford] “Bad Cops Will Keep Getting Rehired As Long As You Have Powerful Police Unions” [Ed Krayewski]
  • “Federal Judge In Colorado Rules Sex Offender Registry Is Unconstitutional” [Lenore Skenazy, Jacob Sullum, CBS Denver, Scott Greenfield] If a young man is mentally disabled and exposes himself, should he be barred for good from a busboy job or participation in Special Olympics? [Skenazy] More: David Feige, New York Times via Greenfield on the Supreme Court’s acceptance of a fateful factoid;
  • Trump to lift curbs on disposal of military surplus gear to police [Adam Bates, Jonathan Blanks, earlier]

Crime and punishment roundup

Police roundup

  • “My dad was a cop. He despised the bad guys. But he always told me, ‘we’re the good guys and people should always know the difference.'” [Rep. Eric Swalwell on Twitter, Daniel Dale/Toronto Star on President’s “You can take the hand away, okay?” remarks about handling of suspects in custody; reactions from IACP and rounded up at NYT; related Caroline Linton, CBS News on Suffolk County, N.Y. police department]
  • New legislation in Texas, pushed by police unions, authorizes special courts for cops, guards, and first responders who seek to blame misbehavior on job-related mental conditions [Jolie McCullough/Texas Tribune via Radley Balko]
  • Providence has bad habit of ticketing drivers over parking practices you’d assume were legal [Susan Campbell/WPRI, Scott Shetler/Quirky Travel Guy, 2011]
  • Boston cop to be reinstated with five years’ back pay after nearly choking unarmed man to death; victim, a corrections deputy, had settled with city for $1.4 million [Boston Herald via Jonathan Blanks] Camera saves footage from 30 seconds before activation button pushed: “Baltimore is reviewing 100 cases after video leaks appearing to show police planting drug evidence” [Veronika Bondarenko/Business Insider, Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun] What’s it take for cops to get disciplined, anyway? [Jonathan Blanks on Fort Worth, Tex. whistleblowing case]
  • From the Des Moines Boy Police to D.A.R.E.: America’s long history of enlisting kids as cops to watch peers, family [Joshua Reeves, Reason]
  • Among the public policy involvements of the Fraternal Order of Police: arguing in the Bank of America housing-disparate-impact case for more bank liability to municipalities over lending practices [Liz Farmer, Governing]