With tension between police and minority populations escalating during recent years, police unions are under increased scrutiny.
“It is important for unions to become honestly self-critical about police conduct and to not blindly defend each and every egregious incident by officers,” Samuel Walker, University of Nebraska criminal justice professor told The New York Times in April 2015.
Amid increasing police-minority tensions, many critics think that police unions aim only to protect those who have abused their authority. Even so, labor unions are prevalent in a multitude of U.S. industries to protect workers’ rights, so to some it would seem incomprehensible that law enforcement should be any different.
Among the pros and cons of police unions, the organizations are criticized for protecting bad cops and worsening race relations, while being supported for the benefits they provide.
Police Unions Protect Bad Cops
Police union rules and policies make firing cops difficult. For example, after Edward Krawetz, Lincoln Police Department Officer, kicked a seated, handcuffed woman whom he had arrested in 2009, he initially received a 10-year sentence and was convicted of battery. Not only was his sentence dismissed, but he was allowed to keep his job as an officer because of union protection and resulting special due process protections, reported Reason magazine. Similar stories where unions have protected reckless cops have surfaced in cities throughout the United States, causing widespread concern for police unions.
Unions Worsen Police Race Relations
After the racially charged death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore earlier in 2015, a Baltimore police union initiated a fundraiser on crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com to raise money to assist the convicted officers with legal fees. The union’s creation of this fundraiser resulted in further controversy that led to Gene Ryan, the union’s president, admitting he was “appalled” by the charges, reported The Baltimore Sun. The union’s actions fueled the race riots that erupted soon after.
The International Union of Police Associations outlines several member benefits on its website. The page lists insurance, retirement, education, health, auto and other benefits unionized officers receive.
Voice for Police Officers
“We generally confine our legislative program to issues impacting wages, hours, and working conditions of first responders,” the International Union of Police Associations said on its website. The union has a similar mission to labor unions in other fields: to protect its workers.