For years, ergonomists, many of whom agreed with the goals of organized work, have shunned the extent to which police force unions tend to keep poorly behaved police officers from accountability. More recently, this reluctance has been lifted, and various new studies have confirmed what some of us have always suspected: if the police are unionized, they are more likely to have a serious impact on work after cases of misconduct or excessive violence flee. Last month I summarized some of these results in a short article on ArcDigital. Not only are individual officials accused of misconduct more likely to beat the disciplinary process, but police unions, as the authors of a Florida study put it, could “strengthen a code of silence that hampers the detection of misconduct”.
I have also noticed signs that an area-wide reform consensus could be formed in this area. While my own preference might be to completely end legal privileges for police unions, I pointed out half a measure that could prove politically palatable in some union-friendly areas and which was recently supported by Harvard labor law scientist Benjamin Sachs: Restriction Scope of police collective bargaining in economic matters such as wages and social benefits, so that states and municipalities would not be obliged to negotiate disciplinary rules for misconduct or political changes (such as the limitation of weapons or the use of deadly violence) on the other hand .
In about a third of states, another legal entity is working to reinforce many of the worst effects on the protection of the jobs of malpractice officials: state laws known as law enforcement officers' Bill of Rights. I have previously written about these laws in this area and now I have a new piece in the Frederick News Post that summarizes the current state of affairs:
Since Maryland passed its first law in the nation in 1974, it has expanded to 15 other states, causing problems. States with their own versions of the law include Minnesota, where a video recorded George Floyd's asphyxiation during police detention, and Kentucky, where officials' fatal shots at Breonna Taylor caused widespread outrage at her Louisville apartment.
Now the momentum is back. Judicial Senate chairman William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) has signaled that he wants to rethink key elements of the law.
In a more startling development, Del. Gabriel Acevero, a Montgomery County Democrat, was fired from his daily job at MCGEO, the union that represents many Montgomery County public officials, for refusing to take back his legislative work, LEOBR reform, and other police issues . MCGEO represents several law enforcement officers and was an ally of the powerful fraternal police force (FOP).
Related resources here. Coincidentally, for Sinclair (citing her colleague Trevor Burrus), reporter Leandra Bernstein has written a valuable report on the policies of these laws, including repeated (and oppressive bipartisan) efforts to make the idea national by adopting a federal LEOBR that the idea imposes a majority on states that have not chosen to adopt it.
Attempts to pass a bill of rights for police officers began in Congress in 1971 and continued for decades with the encouragement of police unions. Former Delaware Senator Joe Biden repeatedly supported the law that created a national bill of rights for police officers that began in 1991, a few weeks after the Rodney King hit in Los Angeles.
According to a statement from the Biden campaign, legislation has largely focused on protecting workers and workers' rights. The 1991 bill contained a language to limit the time and circumstances under which an officer could be interviewed and required that the officer be informed of the nature of the investigation prior to the interview. At the time, former New York City Police Commissioner Lee P. Brown argued that Biden's bill would "undermine progress made by holding police officers and their superiors accountable for excessive violence and other forms of misconduct".
Between 2000 and 2007, Biden teamed up with Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell four times to issue a nationwide police bill of rights. The State Discipline and Accountability Act, Accountability and Proper Procedure. The bill included many of the police protection measures provided by state LEOBORs. In addition, officials accused of misconduct were able to review their evidence before asking questions.
With McConnell and Biden on the ballot this fall, it is hoped that reporters will urge them on whether their opinions have changed in recent years.