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Cops’ views

In response to Dan’s post today about police reform, commenter Joshua wrote:

I wonder if Jonathan Haidt and Tucker Carlson will start campaigning for greater viewpoint diversity in the police unions?

In response I wrote that I think there is viewpoint diversity among police officers already. How much viewpoint diversity is there in police union leadership, that’s another question. Also I wonder if police officers with views that are not in the majority are afraid to speak out.

But then this got me wondering . . . what are the social and political attitudes of police officers in this country? There must be some surveys, right?

5 seconds on Google led me to this 2017 article by Rich Morin, Kim Parker, Renee Stepler, and Andrew Mercer from Pew Research:

Police and the public hold sharply different views about key aspects of policing as well as on some major policy issues facing the country. For example, most police say more officers are needed to adequately patrol their communities, while the majority of the public doesn’t think more officers are necessary. A majority of officers oppose a ban on assault-style weapons, while a majority of the public favors a ban on these weapons.

At the same time, there are areas of broad agreement between officers and the public. Majorities of the police and public favor the use of body cameras by officers to record interactions with the public. Large majorities of police and the public also support easing some legal restrictions on marijuana, though the public is more likely than officers to support the legalization of marijuana for both personal and medical use (49% vs. 32%).

These contrasting views and striking similarities emerge from two surveys, one of 7,917 sworn police officers conducted online May 19-Aug. 14, 2016, and the other a nationally representative survey of 4,538 adults conducted Aug. 16-Sept. 12, 2016, by mail and online. The surveys included a number of identically worded questions, which allowed for direct comparisons . . .

Looking at the data summaries, you can see clear differences between police and the general population. Also, though, most of the percentages are between 1/3 and 2/3, which tells us that for most of these positions, there is a substantial minority taking the opposite view.

One thing this survey does not address is diversity of views within police union leadership. Also there’s a difference between an attitude you can hold personally and express in an anonymous survey response, and a public stance. There are group dynamics here, and also politics.

For example, from that story about the two police officers in Buffalo who were charged for assault after pushing an elderly protester to the ground:

The two officers were suspended without pay, a move that incited outrage from the rank and file. The president of the officers’ union, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told The Buffalo News that the city’s actions led all 57 officers on the Emergency Response Team to quit the unit.

Mayor Byron Brown said on MSNBC on Friday that the union had threatened officers in the unit that they would no longer be supported by the organization if they did not agree to resign. . . .

The fury only intensified when the Police Department first claimed that Mr. Gugino “tripped and fell,” a description at direct odds with the video. . . .

I doubt that an overwhelming majority of Buffalo police officers think it’s cool to push someone to the ground like that. But it has become an us-versus-them thing, at least for now.

Public opinion in general, and the views of cops in particular, are relevant to this discussion, but I think it’s best to think of them as a kind of baseline, a background environment within which the drama plays out. As I wrote earlier, perhaps what is needed is not just diversity of opinion within the police force but also conditions under those diverse opinions can be expressed.

59 Comments

  1. Anon says:

    Turns out the Buffalo police department actually resigned because the union said it would no longer provide them legal protection. But the union spun it differently.

    https://www.wkbw.com/news/local-news/exclusive-two-buffalo-police-ert-members-say-resignation-was-not-in-solidarity-with-suspended-officers

  2. James Whanger says:

    In Buffalo? Are you sure? Because Buffalo is so not known for Union/Mafia type tactics.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I dont know. I grew up with unions in Detroit, and they’re intentionally blunt instruments. If the union starts to pick and choose who they’ll back from among the rank and file, they fall apart as it devolves into political favoritism within the union. And in a case like Buffalo, the union reaction is obvious: to protect the members from prosecution. The members dont have to agree with the cops in trouble. That isnt the point of a union.

    • James Whanger says:

      Instead they look like amoral morons who defend abusive behavior.

      • James Whanger says:

        The union’s inability to distinguish among levels and degrees of misconduct, compounded by what appears to be culturally normative lying to investigators about the details of events, suggests they should not be trusted.

    • Joshua says:

      Jonathan –

      > And in a case like Buffalo, the union reaction is obvious: to protect the members from prosecution.

      and

      > That isnt the point of a union.

      I’d say the point of a union is to create a sustainably productive and safe workplace environment. If a police union doesn’t garner public support for the police in the community in which they police, and instead advocates for policies that generate animosity in those communities, then I’d say they they aren’t working towards those goals. Protection from prosecution is too much of a limited, and too much of a blanket objective, IMO, from a systems standpoint.

      I think that politics and ideology is necessarily mixed in with the objectives of many police unions. That can work at cross purposes with what the point of a union might be.

      It’s complicated.

      > If the union starts to pick and choose who they’ll back from among the rank and file, they fall apart as it devolves into political favoritism within the union.

      One might ask if a union should see as its goal to protect openly corrupt cops for the purpose of maintaining a united stance where they aren’t picking and choosing which members to protect.

      Yah. It’s complicated.

    • dhogaza says:

      Jonathan

      The problem with many big city police unions is that they insert themselves into policy issues. The current and immediate past police chiefs in Minneapolis are on record as stating that the police union blocked their reform efforts, and the current mayor says the same. This situation is not unique to Minneapolis. If they restricted themselves to contract issues and the legal representation of officers (which includes a lot of mundane things like discipline for drinking on the job, etc) I don’t think people would have a problem with them. But in all too many big city departments, the Union wants to dictate policy to management, and generally it’s not in the direction of greater respect for the rights of citizens.

      • Jonathan says:

        I would expect the police union to block reforms because reforms either cost them money or subject the members to increased risk of disclipline. I harp on this because liberal and progressive action is aimed not at reducing union power but at extending it. This is the result: when a union has power, it uses that power to benefit its members. Now, because the police are viewed as retrograde, it is union power which is the problem. This kind of blatant contradiction is why conservatives fear that progressive views tend to authoritarian.

        I note, for example, that Minneapolis has been run by Democrats for decades. So to me it looks like the liberal establishment which runs Minneapolis and most of the other places where large protests have been occuring blame the police for their own political failures. I live in Boston. If you look at the list of top paid government employees for any locality in MA, it is entirely dominated by police officers making well into the hundreds of thousands. (Last year, one place actually voted a contract that would have paid its 6 or so captains nearly $1M each, but that was a vote too far.) MA is I believe the only state that doesnt allow civilian flaggers at work sites; we pay police. And the legislature whole-heartedly voted in an act for continuing education for police, but rather than police having to pay like other professions, they get paid to take classes and then they get pay raises based on the classes they take (which then hits their pensions). So at every step the extremely liberal governments here in the most liberal state have showed their priorities. That is why the City of Boston last year spent $60M on police overtime and only $40M on libraries.

        In management consulting, this would be identified as a gap between what you think you do and what you actually do. You espouse these values but your actions say you actually hold these other values.

        But it is simpler to blame the police unions because, you know, they thwarted the plans, just like those wreckers who destroyed the USSR’s 5 year plans, just like the way it’s always someone else’s fault. The truth is harder to accept; the failure of liberal Democrats, including minority Democrats, in power at local and state levels to do anything like what they claim to be their values.

        • Joshua says:

          Jonathan –

          > This is the result: when a union has power, it uses that power to benefit its members.

          Once again, you elide an important issue. The view of what is in the benefit of members isn’t monolithic. It is not a given that a union should protect its members who act in a corrupt fashion, or wield their power in a discriminatory fashion.

          There is a political element that you are ignoring. Police unions reflect a political viewpoint. They are not necessarily any different from other unions in that respect – but the point is that what is in members’ best interests does not exist independently of the political environment.

          > This kind of blatant contradiction is why conservatives fear that progressive views tend to authoritarian.

          You seem to think that conservatives’ fear about progressives tending towards authoritarianism is merely a function of progressives’ tendency towards authoritarianism, as if that view, likewise stands apart from the political perspectives that those conservatives bring to their analysis. What’s interesting about that, is that the work of Haidt and others seem to point to a greater tendency towards authoritarianism among conservatives. Now I happen to think that work has some major flaws, but it does serve to show that fears about authoritarianism are not, actually, just a direct function of facts.

        • Joshua says:

          Jonathan –

          > So to me it looks like the liberal establishment which runs Minneapolis and most of the other places where large protests have been occuring blame the police for their own political failures.

          • Joshua says:

            I have to say, that’s a rather remarkable statement. So cops using choke holds, and murdering someone, is the fault of democratic politicians?

            I’m old enough to remember when conservatives even paid lip service to the notion of personal accountability.

        • James Whanger says:

          Jonathan:

          I agree with your description of how unions exercise power. Unions have, at moments in time, served important roles in improving work conditions. They are largely not that any longer and pretty much lack the ability to actually swing votes from the rank & file: https://www.stltoday.com/business/local/rank-and-file-unions-backing-trump/article_fbd604f2-523f-52d4-a5a1-e003058c753a.html

          I do believe your management consulting diagnosis is a bit simplistic. There is clearly an uneasy political coalition between socially liberal groups and unions that continue to use coercive, harassing, and abusive tactics in attempt to acquire and maintain membership. This is likely the divide that pushed the many rank & file to support Trump who they view as a like minded ally willing to defend them against the “reverse discrimination” they believe they are experiencing. That said, it is clear that leaders in both parties have yielded to political coercion at a cost born disproportionately by poor citizens of color.

          However, this does not change the problems with police unions nor the problems with the police culture of the “thin blue line” where protecting each other is held as the highest priority and protection of citizenry a bit further down the list.

  4. Phil says:

    Just a comment about the video of the cops who shoved the protestor in Buffalo:

    “The fury only intensified when the Police Department first claimed that Mr. Gugino “tripped and fell,” a description at direct odds with the video. . . .”

    … well, yes and no. He did trip and fall, but only after he was pushed. It wasn’t a very violent push. If I pushed someone like that I wouldn’t expect them to fall over.

    There are literally hundreds of videos making the rounds these days that show violence by police officers against unarmed, peaceful protestors and against journalists. This particular one isn’t even close to being among the worst of them. I wouldn’t say I endorse this behavior by the police, but of all of the videos I’ve seen that purport to show out-of-control cops, this is one of the _least_ offensive. Specifically, I don’t think the cops involved had any intention of hurting the guy. I could be wrong, maybe the guy who delivered the shove was thinking “I’ll give him this shove, and if it’s not enough to hurt him I’ll get out my club and do the job that way” or something, how would I know. But based on the video, this looks like an attempt to move the victim away, not an attempt to hurt him. The video is disturbing because the guy seems to be seriously injured, but that does not appear to me to have been intentional. I’m a lot more bothered by the cop who used his horse to trample a protestor, and the (several) who drove into people at fairly high speed, and the (several) who fired ‘non-lethal’ but dangerous rounds at journalists and at non-violent protestors.

    • Nunya says:

      Fine example of bootlicking here. These contortions ignore two salient points: 1, the victim was clearly elderly and didn’t need shoving in the first place, and 2, following the assault, other officers were actively prevented from offering assistance. To an elderly man lying in a pool of his own blood.

      • Martha (Smith) says:

        Both of Nunya’s points are good ones.
        Another relevant point that I haven’t heard mentioned in any reports of this incident:
        The pictures clearly show that the man was tall and thin. I would hope that police training would include mentioning that a tall, thin, elderly person is more labile to injury from a fall than a short, thin, elderly person (like me) — simply because they have farther to fall.

    • James Whanger says:

      You have got to be kidding, Phil. You need to watch that video again. They pushed him HARD. If someone is standing squared up and flat footed — how could you possibly NOT expect them to fall to the ground backwards? It could be that they are simply incompetent and unable to accurately make these types of job required judgments — but it’s an easy call to say that they used excessive force given the severity of the threat.

      • Phil says:

        James:
        (1) No, not kidding.
        (2) I’ve watched the video a bunch of times.
        (3) “If someone is standing squared up and flat footed — how could you possibly NOT expect them to fall to the ground backwards?” Funny question. If you push me like that, I put my foot behind me. Maybe I stumble backwards but I’m unlikely to fall down. I’m not saying I couldn’t, but I probably wouldn’t. And, to Martha’s point: I’m over 6′ 3″ tall. But I’m not old, and even for my age I’m more agile than average.

        I certainly agree they used excessive force given the severity of the “threat”, which was non-existent.

        People seem to think I’m saying the cops didn’t do anything wrong here, which is not the case. But I think that of all the videos that illustrate out-of-control cops, police brutality, etc., this is not the right one to choose. There are dozens, probably hundreds, where the cops INTENTIONALLY INJURED PEOPLE. I don’t even think this cop intended to knock the guy down. We all agree that he should have realized he _might_ knock the guy down, should have been more careful, should not have taken this unnecessary risk, but…well, if you guys think this is among the worst behavior we’ve seen from cops over the past week or so…SMDH.

        • James Whanger says:

          Phil:

          This is the ONLY video used to discipline officers for which cops lied about it and then resigned en masse when the perpetrators were disciplined. It’s been chosen because it highlights a critical aspect of the problem with the way in which police and their unions protect abusive officers.

          • Phil says:

            I’m certainly fine with it being used as an example of how dangerous it can be to use any force at all. Try to give the guy a little shove out of the way and three seconds later he’s on the ground bleeding from the ear, it’s very sobering and should remind everyone that unintended consequences of violence can be life-changing.

            Although you are correct on the sequence of events — cops resigned from the unit subsequent to the perpetrators being disciplined — I think you are wrongly implying that the cops resigned from the unit _because_ the perpetrators were disciplined. That appears not to be true: https://www.wkbw.com/news/local-news/exclusive-two-buffalo-police-ert-members-say-resignation-was-not-in-solidarity-with-suspended-officers

            As Andrew has pointed out, different cops feel differently about some things, and it seems that at least some of them are OK with disciplining others who get needlessly rough with protestors.

            I’m not going to allow myself to be backed into arguing that I think the cops in this video behaved acceptably. But I am also not going to stop insisting that intent matters. I think these cops intended to push the guy away; they did not intend to send him to the hospital with a serious injury. Meanwhile, we have dozens of videos of cops who intentionally injured peaceful protestors. I think _those_ are the ones we should be making infamous.

            • James Whanger says:

              Phil:

              I was agnostic as to whether or not the officers resigned with the goal of protecting the offending officers and frankly think it is irrelevant to the argument I am making. Instead I am focused on the fact that they resigned in effort to force the hand of local leaders — if you are going to discipline our officers, then we will withhold protection for the community. It was a move by union leadership which is quite common, though usually only as a threat.

              I have extremely limited training in martial arts and even given that I know that I would expect someone standing as he was to fall on their ass if I pushed them the way they did. I would further know that if I pushed them on their ass there is a likelihood of them falling back to hit their head on the ground. It is why the training typically includes tactics and methods to minimize and eliminate these types of outcomes.

              It is difficult to watch that video and not conclude either utter incompetence or malicious intent. I am willing to acknowledge that incompetence could have played a role, but it is difficult to explain the strength with which it was carried out, the callousness of walking past, and the intentional deception without bringing intent into the equation.

              • James Whanger says:

                And as far as who is responsible for making them famous — it is their union leaders who they can thank. If not for the resignations, this would have been drowned out by exactly what you are saying.

              • Phil says:

                I used to do a lot of field sports and have been run into unexpectedly, pushed or shoved in various ways, (including when I’ve been on the sidelines facing away from the action), and I have A good idea what does or doesn’t knock down me or others like me. The guy went down from a very mild shove. That’s not his fault! He’s a man in his seventies and it’s not like he took a dive like a soccer player! The cops gave him a shove I would characterize as ‘moderate’ and he stumbled backwards and fell, and was badly injured. We don’t disagree on the facts. Where we disagree, if indeed we do, is whether this is a good example of police brutality or out-of-control cops. I don’t think it is.

                What it may be is a good example of cops lying to protect themselves or other cops. If these guys claimed the victim spontaneously fell down and didn’t admit to shoving him, they should be fired.

                We’re going to have to agree to disagree on the level of brutality illustrated here. Or if you want you can disagree to disagree. I’m not budging from my stance that the video does not demonstrate an intent to injure the guy or even to knock him down.

              • James Whanger says:

                Phil:

                You are wrong about the shove. Your comparisons are in no way apt. It is where shove was applied on his body using a baton that increased the direct force at that area combined with how he was standing. It is a matter of leverage. If the officer was not trained in krav maga or something like it, then that is something the union and department should be held accountable for.

                In order to get to your line of reasoning, I would have to conclude that the officer was untrained or did not absorb even the most basic aspects of that training.

              • James Whanger says:

                We will agree to disagree because there is no way a unionized department would allow their officers to not be properly trained.

              • James Whanger says:

                If you are correct, Phil, that there was no intent to push the man down then the utter incompetence is astonishing.

            • Martha (Smith) says:

              Phil said, “But I am also not going to stop insisting that intent matters. I think these cops intended to push the guy away; they did not intend to send him to the hospital with a serious injury. “

              I can’t entirely agree with this. I believe that we are (to varying degrees in varying circumstances) responsible for unintended consequences. In particular, when someone is acting in a professional capacity (as were the police officers in this situation), this responsibility for unintended consequences is greater than for someone not acting in a professional capacity. The responsibility is not as great as when the consequence was intended, but it is still there. For example, in the situation in question, the police officer has the responsibility not to use excessive force.

              However, I acknowledge that part of the responsibility might have been with the police officer’s training — perhaps there was no attention there to what is or is not excessive force — in which case, the police department may bear a greater responsibility for the consequence than the individual officer.

              • Phil says:

                Martha,
                Although I do think training is a problem here — indeed I think this specific video could be effectively used to train police by showing how tragic the consequences of misjudgment can be — that’s not my main point. Really I am just arguing for finding different cops to be the go-to examples of police brutality.

                First let me acknowledge that I agree that ‘intent’ is not clear-cut thing. Say someone has a few drinks, then gets in a car to drive home, and hits and kills a pedestrian on the way. They didn’t _intend_ to kill the pedestrian, but they behaved recklessly and did so. Or, to put it another way, they didn’t intend to kill the pedestrian, but they did intend to drive even though they were drunk, and thereby increase the risk of killing someone. The pedestrian’s death was not an intended consequence of the action, but it was a known possibility.

                So, yes, by pushing an elderly protestor the cop knowingly took a risk of injuring him, and that should (and does) count for a lot.

                Still, if we imagine being able to freeze the world at any moment and ask the cop “do you want this man to fall and hit his head”, I don’t think the cop would have said ‘yes.’ How likely did he think it was? I have no idea but I do not automatically assume that he thought it was more than a distant possibility. I don’t think I would have.

                And the intend does matter, or at least it should. This is not a novel concept, either morally or legally. This is why we distinguish between involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter, second-degree murder, and first-degree murder.

                In recent days we have seen a shockingly large number of cops intentionally hurt protestors — and when I say ‘intentionally’ I mean that if you asked the cop “do you want this person to be injured”, the cop (if honest!) would have said “yes.” I think that is much worse, morally, than someone who misjudges the frailty and poor balance of a hale but elderly protestor and gives him a shove. I’d rather focus our ire on the people who are hurting people on purpose.

              • Joshua says:

                Phil –

                My guess is that a lot of cops would say that the guy was warned to get out if the way and he didn’t get out if the way, and he was obstructing the cops from doing their job, so pushing him out of the way was called for, and if he got hurt they weren’t responsible, but the guy was.

                Intent matters, but accountability matters more. They would say they did nothing we wrong, and that’s the problem.

                It’s a cultural and political issue.

    • dhogaza says:

      Phil

      Look very closely at that video. He had an object in his left hand. He was trying to give it to the police. What was that object?

      • Phil says:

        I think it’s a cell phone and that he’s not trying to give it to them, but I could be wrong on both counts.

        • dhogaza says:

          Phil

          The man has two hands. The right had a cellphone, the left was holding what appears to be a police helmet that, and his posture just before being struck it totally consistent with his trying to give the police whatever is in his hand.

          And all this is consistent with the two policemen being suspended pending investigation.

    • DMac says:

      From a legal perspective the cops are still in the wrong even if they didn’t intend to hurt him https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggshell_skull

    • Joseph William Candelora says:

      Goodness, if you’re going to argue silly semantics, at least get it right. He didn’t trip — tripping involves catching your foot.

      This was an example of losing one’s balance and falling, although in this case the loss was actually a taking by the state.

  5. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    I actually meant to write that Tucker and John should campaign for viewpoint diversity among union leaders..but forgot in my haste to get the comment posted…

    The reason being that I was thinking that the unions present a big obstacle to much of the reforms I’d like to see…and I’m quite pro-labor which presents a bit of a conundrum for me.

    So here’s what I wonder about the viewpoint diversity among union leaders, and cops more generally as well: How many of them think that unions need to increase the transparency, and public access, and accountability, with respect to the job performance and more specifically, complaints lodged against occifers of da law?

    The 18 complaints against the one Minny cop, and the 6 complaints against the other – seems really, really, really problematic to me. And I certainly believe that in general, there is a huge-assed problem whereby police unions, out of concern with protecting their members, often resist public oversight of cops’ job performance. I don’t think that this is a simple issue, but I do think that public oversight is a necessary component of public trust in policing. And I think that public trust in policing is a key ingredient for effective policing – especially in the black community given the history of policing in the black community.

    • Michael Nelson says:

      Labor organizing is good, to the extent that a balance of power exists between workers and management. Imbalance leads to disaster. Public unions are in a unique position: their “management” is government, which legally puts all the power in the hands of management. The power of politicians to abuse public workers is limited only by voters’ perceptions. There are few limits with respect to teachers, for example, since they are often successfully cast as socialists taking everyone’s tax dollars for doing an easy job poorly. The flip-side is that, since the public image of police (among white communities) has been one of literal heroes, political oversight power is extremely limited. This gives inordinate power to police unions, not just over regulations but also over politicians themselves.

      So don’t feel bad about wanting to empower workers while also wanting to limit the power of police unions. It is only reasonable to say that unions must have the “right” amount of power, not too little, not too much.

  6. Michael Nelson says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s illegal for a private organization to extort, or to conspire with, public officials (police officers) to take actions that undermine the capacity of a government agency (police department) to fulfill its legally-mandated mission (law enforcement).

    As far as keeping unions out of disciplinary actions against individual officers, remember that police unions only have as much power as they are allowed by city and state law, since these are government agencies. See, for example, the fate of teachers’ unions: in most states, teachers are legally barred from negotiating their contracts through a union. Apparently, teachers’ unions had been helping teachers to get away with using excessive force, and noble legislators felt compelled to act. …No, wait, it was so teachers couldn’t get as much money. Anyway, police may be even less supported by the public than are teachers right now, so maybe there’s a window opening…

  7. Steve Sailer says:

    Cracking down on unions helps explain why the Fortune 500 and the Forbes 400 are so outspoken against cops at the moment.

    The handwriting would appear to be on the wall for teachers’ unions too, although most schoolteachers haven’t figured that out yet.

    • yyw says:

      There are indeed a lot of parallels between teachers and cops: American students grossly underperform given the resource invested, different racial/ethnic groups have extremely disparate outcomes, there are some bad apples in the teaching profession, unions advocate against accountability and protect bad teachers, etc. I doubt the public will see the parallel though. Bad policing often result in visceral events while bad teaching is slow boil.

      • rm bloom says:

        [1] Why do people become teachers?
        [2] Why do people put on uniforms and carry guns?

        • Martha (Smith) says:

          I can list lots of reasons why people become teachers –I’ve known a lot of teachers, and taught for many years myself.

          But I don’t really know why people put on uniforms and carry guns (although I’ve known some people who have done that. Some of them were drafted into the military; some joined the military as a better alternative to being drafted.)

  8. Alex says:

    As far as surveys of police officers go, 538 had an article on exactly that last week fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-the-police-see-issues-of-race-and-policing

    • Andrew says:

      Alex:

      Thanks for the link. I took a look. That article is basically a rewrite of the Pew report by Morin et al.

      • Joshua says:

        Andrew –

        Some questions for you. You say:

        > Looking at the data summaries, you can see clear differences between police and the general population. Also, though, most of the percentages are between 1/3 and 2/3, which tells us that for most of these positions, there is a substantial minority taking the opposite view.

        I think that in some ways, more relevant are the views among white cops, especially since they are somewhat disproportionately representative in the police force versus the general public. The 538 article highlights that white cops are not terribly reflexrice of the views of the public in general and are somewhat skewed relative to whites in general.

        You say:

        > I doubt that an overwhelming majority of Buffalo police officers think it’s cool to push someone to the ground like that. But it has become an us-versus-them thing, at least for now.

        I’m not as a sure about that as you – in particular the white cops in Buffalo. I’m curious why you have the opinion you have. I’d say that a majority of the white cops thought he was a lefty loon protestor who got what was coming to him. What is your opinion based on?

        You say:

        > Public opinion in general, and the views of cops in particular, are relevant to this discussion, but I think it’s best to think of them as a kind of baseline, a background environment within which the drama plays out

        I’m not really sure what that means. I think that the views of the majority of cops, and white cops in particular, may actually be the most important factor here. For example, if the majority of white cops think there is no real problem, or if there is a problem the problem is that blacks just need to buckle down and stop complaining about non-existent discrimination, or if they think that there is no general problem with how cops do their jobs and greater scrutiny is not needed – then that isn’t just baseline or background information.

        Not to say that the views of union leadership isn’t important also – but maybe I think that the views of union leadership are less different than the views of the rank and file – than you seem to think.

        But as I said, I’m not quite sure what you meant. What am I missing?

        • Joshua says:

          Andrew –

          Regarding:

          > > I doubt that an overwhelming majority of Buffalo police officers think it’s cool to push someone to the ground like that. But it has become an us-versus-them thing, at least for now.

          I don’t know about “overwhelming” majority, but it’s interesting that the Broward County F.0.P. is publicizing an offer for the cops who resigned to head down there to work. I suspect that you might be underestimating the number of cops who explicitly support what the cops did.

  9. jim says:

    There’s a difference between what any individual cop thinks is acceptable or unacceptable behavior and what that same cop will expect the union to do in protecting and defending other cops. Every cop can see themselves in a situation in which their actions may have been misconstrued or misrepresented by the department or the public. The last thing they want is a union that’s going to go along with a misrepresentation or waffle about whether or not stepping in is justified. They want to know that if something happens the union is going to step in and get them out of trouble.

    • somebody says:

      This is essentially my theory as well. The Warren Buffets of the world are happy to privately or even publicly think that they should be taxed more, that there should be higher capital gains taxes, that the allocation of massive wealth to them is unfair to society. That doesn’t mean they’re going to spend their time and energy lobbying for those higher tax rates. Whatever your moral perspectives, it’s a lot easier to respond to incentives than to deny them, and we as a society can’t organize systems that rely on people actively working against their collective special interest.

      I simply HAVE to believe that most Chicago PD police officers didn’t want to put a float of disgraced torturer Jon Burge in a parade, it’s just the union representation that did were a convenient evil.

      • Jim says:

        Yep! Teachers too. Every public school teacher I know has had a kid who had a teacher that “should be fired”, that the union “shouldn’t be protecting”. But that doesn’t mean teachers want to get rid of the union.

    • James Whanger says:

      These actions were not misconstrued. They were on camera for anyone to analyze. The union has made the strategic decision to without community protection in effort to force the hand of local government. Say what you want, but there is nothing heroic about that.

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