We certainly live in uncertain times, and when it comes to the policing profession cops are under attack from all angles. From a decades-high number of cops being killed, to aggravated assaults against our Brothers and Sisters in Blue and now union-busting and pension reform! None of these issues are localized, but are occurring nationally. When it comes to our collectively bargained contracts, working conditions and retirement, it’s an orchestrated attempt to punish police officers (and public employees generally) for an economic collapse we didn’t cause. I recently read an article written by a Boston University Law Professor on how our pension money is actually used against us (“Public shareholders should wield their power”).
The Jury is Still Out
The public opinion polls, so far, seem to indicate that our citizens will stand by us and if given the opportunity render a “citizen veto” to the draconian laws passed by reckless state legislatures who are bought and paid for by special interest groups. However, we are still early in the fight. For those states attempting referendums to change the injustices legislatively imposed, the big money from the special interest groups spent on disinformation campaigns has yet to hit the hearts and minds of the average voter. Think “Presidential Election”. The eighteen months or so of complete madness where every other commercial on TV is essentially millions of dollars spent on lies. They breed confusion and when you can’t tell the truth spreading confusion works just fine. That, I fear, is how the Banking and Insurance Industry, and others who own our elected officials, will attack our legal ability to negotiate wages and benefits.
When you and I decided to pursue a career in the public sector we knew we wouldn’t get rich. Whatever our motivation was for entering the police service it helped to know that after 20-30 years of faithful service we could retire and try to live the remainder of our lives nursing our injuries obtained while “on-the-job”. That dream is quickly becoming a fleeting vision. No doubt many of our fellow Americans have suffered from the Great Recession, caused by the financial sector, but unless we learn how to fight this fight we are going to bare the brunt of discontent. Here is a start –
1.Walk the Beat – Fighting these changes are going to be launched from a good old-fashioned grass roots campaign. Government employee’s account for the largest employment sector in the U.S. If every cop could convince five voters either within their family or close friends to support the plight of public employees everywhere then we are talking millions of votes.
2. Coordinate Response – Combining the efforts of public sector unions with private sector labor unions serves as a “force multiplier”. Union stewards need to communicate with others outside of their shop to ensure we are all functioning as one, cohesive, unit. Number of voters? Add millions to the polls.
3. Separation of Powers - The alienation of the public from the police and visa versa has to stop, and we have been a contributing factor. I'm talking about writing tickets here for traffic infractions. I worked with a patrol supervisor once who wouldn't hesitate to pull over a soccer mom in a minivan with three kids for going 15mph over the posted limit and cite her while "dirt bags incorporated" drove by in a "hoopty" on their way to commit a crime. Drug and criminal interdiction was out of the question. Law abiding citizens were fair game. Now, granted, he was a coward, but how many officers do you work with that will pen a cite to just about anyone, because "the law was broken".
Today, we find ourselves needing the vote of the public to over turn legislation targeting us and I fear we may have severed any semblance of a relationship we once had. I remember being in military police school and the instructor told us the unofficial motto of the U.S. Army Military Police Corp; "Of the Troops and for the Troops, Don't Screw the Troops". We need to get our head straight and understand who we work for; the citizens. Most of the people we encounter daily are not criminals but average, everyday, people who made a mistake. We should treat them like that instead of criminalizing their errors. Revenue generation through ticketing writing? It's the politicians forcing that upon us and in many cases the same politicians who are interested in our pension. They’ve declared their loyalty. Who are you loyal to?
About the Author:
Keith R. Lavery, M.A., CMAS, is a full-time criminal justice educator teaching at a public Career Center, University System of Ohio. He has facilitated and designed criminal justice, security, and law enforcement courses of instruction at the post-secondary level. Keith had a very diverse police career spanning nearly 20 years, working in urban and rural law enforcement settings with assignments ranging from patrol to specialized functions, to include HIDTA Drug Unit, CLANLAB Enforcement Team, SRT and Supervision. In 2008, Keith was awarded the Certified Master Anti-Terrorism designation from the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board. Academically, he has completed post-graduate course work dedicated toward a Doctorate in Education. Keith is currently the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter of ASIS International.