Voters Oppose Contracts That Protect Bad Cops

By Steve Haner

As yet another bitter conflict over a police officer’s use of deadly force divides America, this time a case in Wisconsin, Virginia’s General Assembly forges ahead with opening up the state to the police unions that usually rush to protect their members from discipline or dismissal.

The Kenosha Professional Police Association was quick with its call for everybody to step back and let that investigation proceed. That is a fairly balanced statement, but then it put out a statement defending the officers’ behavior that ended with an entire clip emptied into somebody’s back.  Unions advocate for their members.

Among all the bills introduced in the General Assembly’s special session response to these cases are a handful seeking to prevent some of the worst problems seen when unions stand up for bad cops. One is already defeated, but two are languishing in a House committee, where they may or may not be heard. All three have Republican sponsors.

A poll conducted for the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy two weeks ago indicates they would have public and bipartisan support. The poll over-sampled Black Virginians, to be sure enough were called to give credence to that cross tabulation. Their support was in line with all Virginians.

To be specific:

  • 71.4% of Virginia voters oppose police union contract provisions automatically erasing information on past misconduct (68% of Black voters oppose these).
  • 64.3% oppose provisions restricting how, when, or where a police officer under investigation may be questioned (61% of Black voters).
  • 57.8% oppose provisions limiting disciplinary punishment for police officers guilty of misconduct (58.8% of Black voters).
  • 59.2% oppose providing police officers under investigation access to information civilians do not receive before being interrogated (58.8% of Black Virginians).
  • 68.8% oppose provisions allowing police officers accused of misconduct to use binding arbitration to return to the streets even when their Chief of Police objects (70.9% of Black voters).

Another key finding: In this age of declining media coverage and voter attention span, most Virginians have no idea that come next year, their local governments will be negotiating union contracts with teachers, fire fighters, garbage collectors and indeed law enforcement. The lowest awareness of that was among Republicans, a devastating indication of how pathetic GOP messaging has become in this more-and-more Blue State.

A summary of the poll results is here. It was the same sample that was asked the question about using state funds to help lower-income parents find and pay for educational alternatives when their kids are barred from in-person classes, also overall quite popular.

Republican State Senators voted in committee to support a bill to simply prohibit police unions, and that bill was rejected 12-3 on a party line vote.  Frankly, the cow is too far out of the barn and into the pasture to now prohibit the coming of unions to this arena. The 2020 regular session decided that.

But Del.David LaRock’s House Bill 5071 is tightly aligned with some of the narrow issues raised specifically in the poll, and an earlier paper on the issue by Thomas Jefferson Institute President Chris Bruanlich.

“The continued presence of police officers like Derek Chauvin is not only a danger to many Black citizens but an insult to the more than 680,000 law enforcement officers who are guardians of our safety and put their lives on the line,” Braunlich said. “They are there only because of the police union bargaining agreements permitting the manipulation of discipline and justice,” Braunlich wrote today.

“The Virginia General Assembly should stop the problem before it comes to Virginia by limiting police union bargaining agreements.”

LaRock’s bill would at least mitigate the problems to come. It did not come up in this week’s meeting of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, which may not meet again. The issue is unlikely to fade if that is what the Democrats hope. “If an officer is not playing by the rules, nobody benefits if the system is stacked in his favor,” LaRock said today.

Next year, it may be a Virginia officer sparking the kind of national violent response seen after the Kenosha shooting, a Virginia union official defending her with both soft words and a hard-nosed lawyer, and a union contract approved by a local Virginia government stacking the discipline process in the officer’s favor.  The warning in front of us could not be more obvious.

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9 responses to “Voters Oppose Contracts That Protect Bad Cops

  1. I think you are saying the Dems believe strongly in empowering the unions, and in Virginia, have already acted as fast as they possibly could to empower unions. At the same time, the Dems are trying to side with immediate reform of police forces, which is somewhat conflicted with the idea of empowering the unions. So in this special session Dems are a bit lost, but there may be a few things we can accomplish. Sort of like the 2nd Amendment, we have public opinion, and then we have what elected officials are actually willing to do.

  2. I think making this about unions is really off the mark although I do acknowledge that having the Kenosha Professional Police Association doing the communications for the Police is less than good.

    This problem is bigger than unions although unions are the tool being used in some situations. In other situations, the process is little different even when the Police force itself is doing the communications.

    By making this about unions, we are actually avoiding the real issue.

    It comes back over and over that the police are essentially allowed to maim or kill you if you are perceived as a threat and the onus is on you to prove they did wrong and while you do that, they’re going to do what they can to prove you were the fault.

    The fact that some folks are using this as an argument against unions is even worse. Police and Sheriff Departments without unions do the very same thing at times.

    • Access has been sketchy as of late.

      The cops have always operated in the dark. Back in the good old days, they just used rubber hoses in the interrogation rooms. Then, cameras ended that. Now it’s in the streets, and cameras will end that.

      The next step is just “disappeared” somewhere on the way to the station.

  3. So, 60 to 70% are in favor of more openness in the police personnel matters. Good, but it’s the 30 to 40% who seem to find something good in the way the police union currently polices itself… wonder why?

    When you consider how much immunity cops have from prosecution, and the protection from civil action by deep pocketed cities, combined with the scant track record of convictions when they do rise to the level that even the CA is wiling to take the hit to their careers just to charge them, then at least firing them, for god’s sake, should be a little easier.

  4. “The Kenosha Professional Police Association was quick with its call for everybody to step back and let that investigation proceed. That is a fairly balanced statement, but then it put out a statement defending the officers’ behavior that ended with an entire clip emptied into somebody’s back. Unions advocate for their members.”

    Mr. Haner,

    I find the last part of that statement to be inaccurate and inflammatory. It is also irresponsible at this time of nationwide unrest and violence. If you would be open to an opposing view, I will gladly provide one. I would also provide references where possible.

    I will be away from my computer today, but will check tonight to see if you have responded.

    • Well, it is clear that unions do advocate for their members, so I assume you think the shooting was justified, while I suspect it was not. Others will determine that, with actual evidence and testimony and not just stuff on the Internet. Not in dispute: Three officers, three, proved unable to subdue and arrest the guy and at the end he was shot repeatedly in the back to keep him from getting into a vehicle. Gee, wouldn’t one shot have done it? Would have for me. Maybe the cop was mad because the guy had bested him moments before?

      If you want your own column, check with Bacon, but sign it with your full name.

  5. “Well, it is clear that unions do advocate for their members”

    The clear implication in the article was that the release of information by the Police Union was inappropriate and possibly inaccurate. I’m not convinced of that.

    Police departments often release information to quell violence in situations like this. I don’t know if that should have been done in this case, but it will be interesting to see once all the facts come out.

    Here’s an example where they did release information quickly.

    “so I assume you think the shooting was justified and I suspect it was not.”

    There are more than two possible options here. One might believe that it’s too soon to draw a definitive conclusion.

    “Others will determine that, with actual evidence and testimony and not just stuff on the Internet.”

    If that was the takeaway regarding this shooting, I would not have objected. I don’t see how anyone could interpret your comments within the article as stressing the need to wait for “actual evidence and testimony” before coming to a conclusion.

    “he was shot repeatedly in the back to keep him from getting into a vehicle.”

    If the suspect had access to a weapon, the officer need not wait until the suspect turned and stabbed him to defend himself. At close range, knives can be just as deadly as a firearm.

    “Gee, wouldn’t one shot have done it? Would have for me.”

    The officer appears to be using one hand to hold back and the suspect and possibly prevent him from accessing the knife, attacking the police officers with the vehicle, or leading them on a high speed chase. All of those would be dangerous for the police officers, the other occupants of the vehicle and the suspect himself.

    That left just one hand to hold and fire his weapon, and required that he do so while being pulled by the suspect.

    Even at point blank range it often takes several shots to stop a threat. Not everyone is as proficient with a firearm as you.

    “If you want your own column, check with Bacon, but sign it with your full name.”

    Perhaps I will, but the contact information by Mr. Bacon’s bio appears to be out of date. I’ve had trouble contacting him.

    I’d best wait until I’m retired, however. The land where free speech is guaranteed seems to treat people with an opposing view rather harshly if those views run against the grain.

    • The point of the article was that police unions, unless their contract provisions are limited, tend to stack the deck in disciplinary matters, making it hard to dismiss officers who should be fired. Police unions are coming to Virginia, and the General Assembly as it sits right now could pass legislation to prohibit certain problematic provisions, by passing LaRock’s bill.

      Whether the officer in Kenosha should be fired remains to be seen (although unlike Chauvin he seems not to have a history.) Whether the contract in Kenosha interfere with the process, no idea what it provides. I care about the next such incident in Virginia.

  6. I wonder why the MSM has not noticed that all of these recent incidents of police shootings/rough treat of blacks have come in local jurisdictions governed by Democrats. Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kenosha, Fairfax County, for example.

    Oh, silly me. I can answer my own question.

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