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Wednesday, July 15, 2020
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Bad cops: Who ya gonna call

By ART CHANCE

You have to be in your 60s or 70s to have any memory of events similar to the last week in America.  

I was a college sophomore when the country exploded in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There have been other incidents of rioting, looting, and arson in the years that followed, but they have been localized. 

Protests that led to rioting, looting, arson, and murder in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have occurred all around the country, but they almost all have one thing in common: They have taken place in Democrat- controlled states or in Democrat-controlled cities in Republican-controlled states. Perhaps we can examine why that is.

Most of my readers have little doubt about how I feel about Democrat politicians and apparatchiks. Other than in public accommodations or at public events; I haven’t been in the same room with a Democrat public figure unless I was being paid to be there in over 20 years.   

I did have to understand them, if for no other reason than they kept promising the unions that they would not only fire me but make sure I never worked in Alaska again.  They never got to keep that promise, but they did succeed in getting me to quit the Executive Branch for awhile and go to work for the Republican-controlled Legislature with the Democrats/public unions’ misery as my main mission. The Democrats had to suck it up and hire me back to fix the mess they’d made.

For most of my time with the State, the departments of Public Safety and Corrections were in my labor relations portfolio. From the early Nineties until I retired in 2006, my name or the name of somebody I supervised was on the appearance line on behalf of the State for every contract, grievance response, and grievance or interest arbitration involving the unions that represented State law enforcement and corrections officers. I understand this business.

Two predicates of management problems in law enforcement and corrections are the turnover rates caused by 20-year retirement systems and the difficulty of recruiting people who are physically fit, at least somewhat, and who can pee in a bottle and pass a background check.   

Since the 1990s, public employers have been not only scraping the bottom of the barrel but digging in the dirt under the bottom of the barrel to try to recruit law enforcement and corrections employees. 

The United States standing up the Transportation Security Administration in the early ‘00s only exacerbated the problem, as that agency was recruiting from the same limited pool. 

Here in Alaska, our legalized marijuana and lasse faire attitude toward recreational drug use only makes it worse for recruiting. The reality is that in most of the country the most valuable skills you can have are the ability to pass a drug test and a background check.

I’m a supporter of 20-year retirement for cops and correctional officers; 20 years is a long time to deal with the people everybody else wants put away.

It’s less relevant here in Alaska because once you’re vested at five years, you can take your lump sum check whenever you choose, but most of the union states still have defined benefit 20-year retirement for law enforcement and corrections.   

The management problem is that 20 years is a pretty short time in terms of organizational culture. I know from my own experience that I was pretty good at the how to do part of my work almost from the outset and was really, really good after about five years.  

The “what to do” part of my work took a lot longer, and maybe after about 15 years I was a pretty reliable advisor about what to do.  The 20-year retirement cycle makes it very difficult to instill a continuous management culture in a law enforcement organization, and that brings us to why the question at hand is, “Who ya’ gonna’ call?”

The commonality in all of the insurrection is unionized police forces. Even in right-to-work states like Georgia and Texas, the Blue city police forces are unionized.   

The pretty smart people that drafted the National Labor Relations Act separated “guards” from other employees; the employees charged with the security of the employer’s property could not be a part of a union that represented other employees.   

No public employee bargaining law that I’m aware of observes this distinction. Some cop unions have maintained independence, but most have become a part of the large public employee unions that are essentially Socialist workers parties whose primary interest is politics.

The cop unions make endorsements and political contributions to mayoral and assembly candidates. Inevitably before long, they own the mayor and the assembly/council.  You can’t become a police lieutenant, captain, or chief without the approval of the union. Most of these cities that have been burning are examples of the worst case of how the cop union owns the government.   

The power of the head of law enforcement isn’t the ability to arrest you, but the power to not arrest you. That lower right desk drawer is the source of the head officer’s power; he has the pictures.

In these Democrat-run cities, there is no real discipline in their police force.   If the union backed the mayor, the only thing a cop can do wrong is become the lead story, maybe, or get cross-threaded with the administration.   

[Read: Head of Minneapolis police union says George Floyd had violent past]

If a union cop becomes the lead story, the mayor can noisily fire him, and then a few months later the mayor’s human resource people throw the arbitration and the cop is back to work with back pay; it happens all the time.  

In the George Floyd case, the Minneapolis mayor’s TV firing of the cops at issue is an almost absolute guarantee that their firing won’t survive arbitration and they’ll at least get back pay until there is a criminal conviction. The officer alleged to have murdered Floyd had 17 civilian complaints against him, none of which resulted in discipline.

Democrat-controlled governments simply will not enforce discipline on a police force that endorsed them. Likewise, they won’t enforce the law against constituencies that endorsed them. That’s why cities are burning and people are dying.   

If your job is enforcing the law or the rules, it is really hard to be a Democrat.

To bring it back to Alaska, AFSCME’s organization of the State Troopers’ union was a real coup for them; they made the legendary Alaska State Troopers the law enforcement arm of the Democrat Party, but then the fecklessness of a Democrat government made the Troopers’ union bolt the AFL-CIO’s endorsement of a Democrat and support the Republican for governor, last time around.   

Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon. 

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Great explanation Art! Thank you

  • Art, I yield to your experience with the SOA, but in the MOA republican politicians are as much likely to lick the boots of labor unions as democrats. It isn’t principles that gets politicans elected, it is powerful friends.

    • MOA has the worst of both worlds; Democrats that are simply union tools and Republican who are dumb enough to think they can get a union to like them.

  • Art, One more thing about police unions and unions in general. Labor unions will never weed out their bad actors as long as they are vulnerable to a duty of fair representation (DFR) lawsuits. Labor unions are frightened about DFRs. And because of that they go overboard to protect even obviously bad actors. I don’t know how to go about changing DFRs to give unions more leeway with their recalcitrant members, but it needs to be done.

    • Don,
      Negotiation time is also the time for employers to show their ’employees’, that is, public union ’employees’ and representatives, just who is in charge. The union will scream like a mashed cat and will cry unfair to labor, among a litany of accusations against their ‘bosses’ (public citizens). A strong “employer” negotiating committee would put the leftists out of business. Let them file their endless lawsuits and complaints. If all is done according to the rules, they will be reconciled to ‘citizen’ status, not some new upper middle class, paid for by those other ‘citizens’, whose rights as citizens are ignored. Just pass the money and power. The ultimate message from the public employee unions.
      November is still a time to remember all this “happiness”.

    • The trades unions are much more responsible with bad actors; the guys don’t want them on the job either and sometimes the Steward or the BA will just take a guy out back and tune him up and tell him they can’t defend him. If you have a decent relationship with the union they let you know its a DFR and the two of you let the arbitrator know its a DFR, and you get the thing over with quick and cheap. For the union it is cheaper to go to arbitration and lose than it is to defend themselves against a DFR before the labor board and in court.

      That doesn’t happen with the big wall to wall unions like ASEA. They view filing grievances and taking case to arbitration as a part of organizing and they take everything. They used to drive me crazy because you couldn’t settle anything with them. They took an offer to compromise as a sign of weakness and upped the ante on you. We simply went to war with them for awhile because we knew we had more money than they did, we knew we were going to win most of the time, and our mission was to make arbitration as expensive for them as we could since the State had loser pays arbitration clauses.

      I don’t know what it is like now, but either the State is making nice with them or the State is winning most of the time because I rarely see one of those “noble union beats evil State” headlines in the ADN. When I went back to the Executive Branch in ’99 I promised them that there’d be none of those headlines on my watch, and I kept that promise right up to when I retired and it was some years after I retired before I saw another of those headlines.

      • I classify unions as the ‘verticals’ and the “horizontals”. The verticals are the trade unions. They build things. Builders essentially subcontract parts of their construction work to the trade unions. Like any good service provider the trade unions understand their lifeblood depends on quality and predictable work. They are good to work with. They rarely file grievances and when they do it’s legit.

        The horizontals are the manufacturing and public employer unions. They are impossible to work with. They are removed from the notion that unsatisfactory work is unacceptable. They are and in the transmission. The file endless grievance over stuff that doesn’t matter just to get in the employers face.

        Unfortunately, here in Anchorage, the distinction blurs. We have trade unions that fro are practical purposes are public employee unions. For example, the IBEW, the Plumbers & Pipefitters, the Operating Engineers and the Carpenters. They might as well merge with the SIEU.

        The Anchorage MOA trade unions were once in a collective contract called the Joint Crafts Council. It worked well by effectively segregating the craft unions for the other MOA unions. George Wuerch, (a republican in name only) screwed that up at the behest of the unions and divested the Joint Craft Council such that each individual union negotiated separately with the MOA. It was a huge blunder on Wuerch’s part.

  • As usual, good historic and assessment piece, Art. And I’m glad that the lengthy rap sheet of George Floyd is slowing getting some exposure. I wonder how familiar he was with Minneapolis PD?

  • Just like your cohort Suzanne you persist in marginalizing a vast number of hard working dedicated and sincere Alaskans when you persist in throwing a vast number of us under the bus. Art, you simply cannot disparage an entire number of us just because we have been a part of a Union. Having lived and worked all over Alaska since 1969 I can plainly tell you that highest quality of work came from the union men and women I associated with. I have rubbed shoulders with Union men both on the job and in social settings and you do them a vast disservice to speak so disparagingly of a group en masse!! If you and Suzanne persist in catering to only a select group of antunion and pebble mine supporters than I may find it necessary to spend my time other than reading MRAK.

    • Hey John,
      I’m pretty sure Suzanne is talking about ‘public employee’ unions. Being a union veteran, I would think you would, at least, empathize with disgusted citizens over the public employee union controlled politics and manipulation of our state government. Claims of fairness abound with the public unions, but are nowhere to be seen. As for Pebble Mine, the prosperity it would bring to Alaska, not only in jobs but lucre for the state, can be ignored if one is the beneficiary of a publicly funded retirement. This entire exercise in understanding is about “Public Employee Unions”, not private sector unions. The ‘big’ picture needs to be examined before condemnation of any part or pixel. Alaska is between that old ‘rock and a hard place’ economically as a state and individually as Alaskans. Public employee unions, with their mottos of ‘equality’ and income for all (of us members) are ignoring the economic plight of the citizens who have lost considerably more than any public union member and, for many, are on the way to lose it all, financially. Equality means ‘for all’, last I heard.
      Remember in November. “Public Union” negotiations will be in motion already, using votes and political contributions as capital for cooperating politicians as a reward.

    • A rank and file union member is like a rank and file soldier; you only know what’s going on within about ten feet of you and you know nothing about why it is going on. The view from where I sat is a lot different. And you’ll be hard pressed to find any column in which I made much mention at all of trades unions in the private sector, not that there really is much true private sector labor any more. Only about 7% of the private workforce is unionized, about what it was before the NLRA was passed in 1935. The rest of the unionized workforce is either in “Third Sector” industries that are heavily regulated or are regulated monopolies, e.g., electrical utilities, transportation, or are heavily regulated and rely on public funding, and industries that rely on heavy permitting and public financing. Not much room out there for the regular working stiff punching a clock and pulling a shift in the factory.

  • Art, You said “almost all have one thing in common: They have taken place in Democrat- controlled states or in Democrat-controlled cities in Republican-controlled states.”

    Do you care to share your data or the source of same?

    • Unlike most lefties, I have pretty good reading comprehension skills. Do your own research. Of course you might be some twenty something that couldn’t even find the US on a map, not to speak of know where any particular city or state was.

      But for a few examples: Minneapolis where this started last elected a Republican mayor in 1961 and the state it is in, Minnesota, a ,Midwestern state in the US, has been a liberal bastion since the early 20th Century. New York City is famously liberal and though it has elected moderate to liberal Republican mayors from time to time has been controlled by Democrats since the days of Tammany Hall in the 19th Century. Atlanta is deep Blue in deep Red Georgia, as is Houston in deep Red Texas. I can go on but it bores me.

      • I, too, have pretty good reading comprehension skills. I also have pretty good analytic skills and an open mind willing to examine propositions presented as fact by others.

        “A few examples” hardly establish your claim. I had hoped you’d actually collected something resembling data.

        A tabulation of the party affiliations of the mayors of the 100 most populous cities in the country and the governors of those states reveals that 79 of them satisfy the criteria you specified. If the events you expressed interest in were uniformly distributed among those cities 79% would have occurred in those cities but that fact would be meaningless.

        • Show me ONE city that had significant rioting and looting that has a Republican, or Republican leaning, since so many maintain the ruse of non-partisan city government, mayor or city council. You can’t so don’t spend much time.

          • This is No problem at all. Jacksonville, Florida had significant rioting and looting. The state has a Republican Governor (not required) and the mayor is Republican.. But that may not satisfy your request which is sorely in need of proofreading.
            There are more. Do your own research.

      • So your answer is no, you cannot source the claim.

        • The answer is that the statement is common knowledge and I’m not going to do research work for lefties; there’s really no point in even discussing things with lefties because they’re impervious to facts and logic.

  • I grew up in the south (I was a child when my family moved from a west coast state). I agree that what happened then and what is happening now feels and looks very much the same—anger rooted in hopelessness and helplessness. Then, as now, I am appalled at the violence and destruction taking place. However, the statistics do not support the narrative that Blacks are being killed in large numbers by white police officers. I think the problem goes much deeper than mere prejudice based on skin color. (Side note: I don’t like the term “racism”—my Bible tells me there is only ONE race—the human race). I also agree that the rioting and destruction is most rampant in states and/or large cities that are politically tied politically to Democrats. But the real problem just might be that the Democrats, including the labor unions, are pushing a socialist agenda—and promoting a false narrative that fosters a victim mentality coupled with an attitude of entitlement and is quick to give or increase handouts that destroy any remaining self-respect and never offers a hand up—always handing out fish, but never teaching anyone to fish!

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