Thursday, March 11, 2021

Politically Organized Law Enforcement Has Been Very Piggish At The Taxpayer Trough...,

NYTimes |  Ron DeLord, a fiery former Texas cop turned labor organizer, has long taught union leaders how to gain power and not let go. He has likened a police union going after an elected official to a cheetah devouring a wildebeest, and suggested that taking down just one would make others fall in line.

He helped write the playbook that police unions nationwide — seeking better pay, perks and protections from discipline — have followed for decades. Build a war chest. Support your friends. Smear your enemies. Even scare citizens with the threat of crime. One radio spot in El Paso warned residents to support their local police or face “the alternative,” as the sound of gunshots rang out.

“We took weak, underpaid organizations and built them into what everyone today says are powerful police unions,” Mr. DeLord said in a recent interview. “You may say we went too far. I say you don’t know how far you’ve gone until you’re at the edge of the envelope.”

That moment may be now.

Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last May set off protests nationwide, 27 states and Washington D.C. have adopted new police oversight and reform laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Officials in Boston, Los Angeles and other cities agreed to limit police spending. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved 17 ballot measures in six states to rein in police officers. 

Unions — many of which have dug in despite the protests and challenged officers’ firings in high-profile incidents — are also increasingly seen as out of step with the public. Officers in big cities can earn more than $100,000 a year, far more than citizens they are assigned to protect. That success has stoked a backlash. Many cities say they are unable, or unwilling, to pay for ever mounting police costs.

As cities from Portland, Ore., to Chicago negotiate new police contracts this year, local officials are seeking to gain back concessions made decades ago.

Union and city leaders are especially watching negotiations in San Antonio. Years ago, officers there locked in some of the most highly coveted perks and protections of any department in the country: rules that helped shield officers from discipline; fat pensions, Cadillac health insurance plans, even taxpayer-funded payments for divorce lawyers. Their success became a case study for unions nationwide.

During the last negotiations, city officials claimed the contract would bankrupt San Antonio. Now, city officials are focused on undoing some disciplinary protections. Adding pressure, a May ballot measure in the Texas city could eliminate the union’s ability to bargain — a devastating blow.