Bullies With Badges

If it were “Just the facts, ma’am,” then thousands of Florida police officers would be out of work:

Thousands of Florida officers remain on the job despite arrests or evidence implicating them in crimes that could have landed them in prison, a Herald-Tribune investigation has found.

Corrections officer Kurt Stout, already dogged by allegations he groped and had sex with prisoners, was arrested on allegations he raped two teenage girls. Nick Viaggio capped a string of violent outbursts at the Ocala Police Department by attacking his girlfriend in a crowded nightclub until bouncers dragged him away. Palm Beach County deputy Craig Knowles-Hiller, under investigation for sleeping with a 14-year old, had to explain why the girl’s DNA was found on one of his sex toys.

Even those officers with multiple offenses have been given chance after chance through a disciplinary system that has been reshaped in their favor by the state’s politically influential police unions. As a result, officers around Florida carry personnel files that are anything but heroic.

Instead, the Herald-Tribune got the facts, and it looks bad. One of every twenty officers has at least one “moral character violation”—which, in this case, “often involve drugs, violence, theft, forcible sex or other crimes,”—and there’s over 600 who have two or more, and 30 who have four or more, yet all still have badges. And that’s just how many are reported; there are so many that are mishandled they never get into the databases and in many cases, the process is manipulated so officers can resign, but report they left voluntarily—so it doesn’t appear they ever committed a crime.

The worse part of the entire story is the case study of a campus cop who was involved in dozens of instances of domestic violence and sexual misconduct (i.e., rape), yet every time the police union came to his rescue and kept him from being fired, by forcing the university he was employed at to go through an arbitrator, who for some idiotic reason ruled in favor of the officer…who then was later arrested in 2006 for sexual assault. On top of this, the state commission that can revoke a law enforcement officer’s certification to, you know, be a law enforcement, can’t even use prior history when deciding a case! It appears that logic is in short supply in Florida.

And the reason for this misbehavior continues to come back to the bane of free markets everywhere: public unions.

Public sector unions are an impossibility. Private sector unions are fine and even encouraged in a free market, although I would argue their usefulness in the 21st century is right about nil. The reason this is so comes down to one of their major differences: public sector unions elect their bosses, while private sector unions don’t. You can have no fair negotiation between the parties, because the union members can simply say “Fine, we won’t vote for you next year,” when they don’t get what they want, and politicians are forced to come begging on their knees if they want to keep their jobs. Private sector bosses don’t have the same problem; they only get fired if customers don’t buy their product or service, and while that may happen because the boss hasn’t put together a talented workforce, that’s not the only consideration. Government, however, never goes out of business, unless there’s an invasion or revolution.

And then, of course, there’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words on public unions:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

What’s worse, however, is this bit from The Daily:

Through its little-known “1033 program,” the Department of Defense gave away nearly $500 million worth of leftover military gear to law enforcement in fiscal year 2011 — a new record for the program and a dramatic rise over past years’ totals, including the $212 million in equipment distributed in 2010.

The surplus equipment includes grenade launchers, helicopters, military robots, M-16 assault rifles and armored vehicles.

And the program’s recent expansion shows no sign of slackening: Orders in fiscal year 2012 are up 400 percent over the same period in 2011, according to data provided to The Daily by the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency.

Passed by Congress in 1997, the 1033 program was created to provide law-enforcement agencies with tools to fight drugs and terrorism. Since then, more than 17,000 agencies have taken in $2.6 billion worth of equipment for nearly free, paying only the cost of delivery.

Experts say the recent surge is simply the continuation of a decades-long trend: the increasing use of military techniques and equipment by local police departments, tactics seen most recently in the crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street protesters across the country. But critics of the program say that the recent expansion of 1033 distributions should be setting off alarm bells.

In other words, we have a massive problem with police corruption and police misconduct, yet simultaneously, we’re handing over billions of dollars of military grade weaponry and vehicles—including tanks!—to these selfsame bullies with badges. It’s not like it’s helped anybody, either, as Radley Balko explains:

Dress cops up as soldiers, give them military equipment, train them in military tactics, tell them they’re fighting a “war,” and the consequences are predictable. These policies have taken a toll.Among the victims of increasingly aggressive and militaristic police tactics: Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Md., whose dogs were killed when Prince George’s County policemistakenly raided his home; 92-year-old Katherine Johnston, who was gunned down by narcotics cops in Atlanta in 2006; 11-year-old Alberto Sepulveda, who was killed by Modesto, Calif., policeduring a drug raid in September 2000; 80-year-old Isaac Singletary, who was shot by undercover narcotics police in 2007 who were attempting to sell drugs from his yard; Jonathan Ayers, a Georgia pastor shot as he tried to flee a gang of narcotics cops who jumped him at a gas station in 2009; Clayton Helriggle, a 23-year-old college student killed during a marijuana raid in Ohio in 2002; and Alberta Spruill, who died of a heart attack after police deployed a flash grenade during a mistaken raid on her Harlem apartment in 2003. Most recently, voting rights activist Barbara Arnwine was raided by a SWAT team in Prince George’s County, Md., on Nov. 21. The police appear to have raided the wrong house.

We need to stop this now. We need to gut the police unions, which are not only protecting police officers from righteous justice for their crimes, but also making unreasonable demands on state and municipal budgets in the middle of a recession, we need to end the “1033 program,” and we need to drastically scale back our law enforcement. We cannot abide a culture where the “thin blue line” that supposedly protects the law-abiding citizenry from the criminal elements of society are, in fact, the criminal element, and are armed with weapons that could enable them to invade a small country. Society cannot retain integrity when groups put themselves above the law and then bully others. It’s why the Civil Rights Movement was inevitable, why the gay rights movement will inevitably succeed, and eventually, why we must either gut the unions or face social disorder.

(h/t reason)

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