June 5, 2020
Derek Chauvin was no saint. That much was known long before his knee crushed the life out of George Floyd. After racking up 17 complaints in 19 years, the question most people have is — what was he still doing on the police force anyway? If we can stand the answer, it would go a long way to getting some of these bad people off the beat. But it would also mean taking a long hard look at the power of unions in this country. And for some people, that’s a bridge too far.
“Maybe it’s finally time to consider the role that police unions play in perpetuating police brutality,” John Fund urges on NRO. “Mayor de Blasio has frequently tangled with his city’s powerful unions, but he’s never challenged their vast political power. And make no mistake, that power is often used to cover up and deflect charges of police misconduct.” He quoted a retired NYPD commander, who’d written a memoir called, Once a Cop. “The unions, at least in New York City, outright just protect, protect, protect the cops,” Corey Pegues said. “It’s a blanket system of covering up police officers.”
As far as he and others are concerned, it’s the rise of those unions that have helped people like Chauvin escape responsibility. Greg Phares, retired Baton Rouge Police Chief, talked about the Minneapolis police culture on “Washington Watch” and how its union contract is very restrictive where disciplinary matters are concerned. And what most people don’t realize, he said, is that “Under a union system and a civil service system, an officer has a right to his job. And it is very difficult to intervene early and get rid of a guy who, in this case, certainly appears to have been a troubled cop and certainly seems to be exhibited that early on. And it clearly was not dealt with.”
Now, obviously, the vast majority of men and women who serve in uniform do so to protect and serve the public. They go in with the right motives. But it’s a tough job, and unfortunately, some people can become hardened to it. That’s something, as a former police officer, I know we have to watch out for — especially in today’s environment. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed. “A vast, vast majority — probably 95-plus percent — of the law enforcement officers, sheriffs’ deputies, municipal police officers, and state troopers are excellent public servants,” Greg insisted. “[They] do not use excessive force… But again, harking back to your career as well as mine… it’s the small percentage that poisons police agencies if you don’t deal with it.”
And the effects of that aren’t just what we’re seeing on television. The consequences are reverberating throughout the next generation with young men and women who are watching these riots and deciding they don’t want a career in law enforcement.
“What you want in a police agency, sheriff’s office, [or] municipal police department are young men and women who have other choices — who are talented, who are educated, and who have the right moral character, and want to serve.” But now, they’re almost certainly coming under pressure from wives, girlfriends, parents, who say, “Do you really want to go into that? Do you really want to take that chance of being killed or maimed, sued? Or have your career ended under bad circumstances? Don’t you think it’s better if you try something else?” So what happens, Greg shakes his head, is these police departments “have a very bad pool to choose from.” “Now you have more cops that are not exactly what you need. It’s just a row of dominoes going down. It’s not good for the public, not good for the police profession, not good for the city or county.”
Tony Perkins’s Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.