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#Police reformers don’t want to discuss the union problem

#Police reformers don’t want to discuss the union problem

June 10, 2020 | 7:34pm

One of the chief forces protecting bad cops in much of America is their union.

Unions exist to protect their members, including the weakest ones. And when a union gains too much power, those protections come at a big price to the general public.

Elected officials are supposed to look out for the public. Yet union donations and voting blocs skew the calculus, as does ideology.

Take the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, now backing calls to defund Gotham’s police. “The only way forward I see,” tweeted co-chairman Ben Kallos, “is #DefundNYPD.”

Just last year, notes the Empire Center’s Ken Girardin, Kallos and the whole caucus sounded wildly pro-cop (or pro-union) in pushing for “market-rate pay” for Police Benevolent Association members. “Don’t tell me you’re a union guy if you don’t support the cops in the PBA,” roared Councilman Justin Brannan.

Camden, NJ, shows the perils of overpowerful cop unions: Policing there got so bad that the city did “defund” its force in 2013 — to build a new one, while breaking with the union. The switch led to big drops in crime and better police-community relations.

Under the union contract, Camden’s police force “abused its power and abrogated its duties,” Reason’s Jim Epstein wrote. Cops took an hour on average to respond to 911 calls and didn’t show up for work 30 percent of the time. In 2013, 88 citizens won court awards and had convictions overturned because of police misconduct.

Camden’s murder rate was 18 times as high as Gotham’s, yet it couldn’t afford more cops. By disbanding its force and setting up a county-run agency, it was able to scrap the union contract, hire cops for just over half the cost, flood streets with more boots and promote community policing. With impressive results.

It still had to cover pensions for the old force — even as the new one rehired most members, under vastly improved work rules.

New York City doesn’t need such drastic steps: The NYPD is a national model for preventing crime with minimal use of force.

Yet it’s still telling that it took the fury over the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis to get the Legislature to finally repeal the 50-A law, a statute unique to the Empire State that has kept police discipline records completely secret for decades.

That’s a measure of the power of police unions even when progressives are running the show. Meanwhile, other unions that protect bad members and have huge pension costs, such as the teachers’ unions, remain utterly unchecked.

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