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Posts Tagged ‘Police Unions’

Police Officers Threaten to Quit If the Public Keeps Demanding Accountability | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on October 5, 2020

Indeed, it’s even a well-established legal principle in this country that police are under no obligation to protect the taxpayers. Meanwhile, when police open fire on unarmed members of the public, officers frequently walk free, and some even continue to get paid.

Ryan McMaken

Faced with an armed assailant at the Parkland school shooting in 2018, sheriff’s deputy Josh Stambaugh ran away and hid while children were gunned down. He was later fired for his lack of action, but last month arbitrators ruled that Stambaugh must be rehired by the sheriff’s department, and he will likely receive more than $100,000 in back pay. In 2018, at the time of his firing, Stambaugh earned $152,000 in base pay and overtime. It looks like he’ll soon be back on the payroll “protecting and serving” the community.

When faced with unarmed suspects, however, some police officers are quite a bit more enthusiastic. For example, when Mesa, Arizona, officer Philip Brailsford gunned down a crawling, sobbing, and unarmed man in a hotel hallway, he paid no price beyond losing his job. He was acquitted in the shooting and was soon thereafter rehired by the police department so he could claim a $31,000-per-year-for-life pension.

It is cases like these which help explain the growing popularity of police reform efforts in recent years. The public is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that police don’t face sanctions for doing nothing to protect the public from violence. Indeed, it’s even a well-established legal principle in this country that police are under no obligation to protect the taxpayers. Meanwhile, when police open fire on unarmed members of the public, officers frequently walk free, and some even continue to get paid.

Some of this is a result of aggressive police unions, which make it extremely difficult to fire law enforcement officers like Stambaugh. State laws also have been enacted to protect police from any personal liability, far above and beyond what is enjoyed by any worker in the private sector. In short, the deck has long been stacked in favor of both police agencies and individual police officers.

In response to incidents like those involving Stambaugh and Brailsford, and countless similar cases, Colorado in 2020 passed new police reform measures. The legislation is designed to end police immunity in some cases, to mandate the use of body cameras, limit when an officer can shoot a fleeing suspect, and rein in police unions.

As we’ve noted here at, many of these reforms should have been enacted long ago.

But many police officers are apparently less than thrilled with the reforms, and police agencies are claiming they’ve been unfairly targeted, while “warning” the public that few people will now want to become law enforcement officers.

In August, for example, the Denver Post reported that more than two hundred law enforcement officers in the state had retired or resigned since the new police reform law had passed. It was strongly implied that much of this was a result of the law’s passage.

The Post article contends many law enforcement officers are quitting especially because they object to potentially being held personally liable for misconduct. The state’s reform allows for officers to be sued personally and held liable for 5 percent of any judgment or settlement against them or $25,000, whichever is less.

“I don’t want myself and my family at risk,” one police officer—a veteran who’s enjoyed a taxpayer-funded paycheck for thirty years—complained. A sheriff’s deputy claimed police are leaving because they’re being unfairly targeted by “politics” and lamented, “Who wants to be a cop anymore?”

Meanwhile, the Durango Herald, a paper in southern Colorado, reports that police say the new accountability law is “too much for them and their families.”

But there is unlikely to be a shortage of police due to “too much” accountability.

In the case of Durango, for instance, local police supervisors note “enrollment numbers are up despite current liability concerns. Last year, there were 16 or 17 cadets, but there are 20 or 22 people enrolled for the fall.” And the Post story admits the number of separations statewide is only “slightly higher” than the average. The total also included officers who were fired.

Moreover, men and woman who work in private security have never enjoyed the sorts of special legal protections that police do. This is in spite of the fact that private security work may be even more hazardous than police work. Yet, somehow, these private firms manage to find willing workers.

Nationwide, the median annual pay for police officers is well above the median overall wage. According to a 2015 report from the Marshall Project, “In 25 of 50 states, [law enforcement officers] are paid 150 percent or more of the median salary—and that’s not including their pension or the hefty sums they are provided for clocking overtime and buying equipment and uniforms.”

Nor is police work remarkably dangerous. Law enforcement isn’t in the top twenty dangerous professions and is less dangerous work than being a crossing guard, a truck driver, or a farm worker. That is, police work often pays more than many jobs that are more dangerous.

Whether or not these comparisons apply to specific police departments and sheriff’s departments in Colorado depends on local conditions, of course. But claims that police officers will be forced to quit en masse as a result of added accountability fit into a dubious national narrative. In this narrative police departments will lose their most heroic members because the police are being unfairly targeted by a public that doesn’t properly appreciate them.

As Slate reported last week:

Law enforcement officials have met calls for defunding police and protests against police violence with an implicit threat: be careful what you wish for. More officers are quitting in frustration at the lack of respect, police officials often tell the press, and public safety will surely suffer. This summer, reports of cops quitting en masse have popped up across the country: Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, and New York City, a major center of the 2020 demonstrations.

But there’s as of yet no evidence that a mass exodus of officers will happen or is likely to happen. After all, many of the separations we hear about are officers who are retiring, and many of these were hired during the “hiring spree” in police departments during the 1990s. It’s now been more than twenty-five years for many of these officers, and it’s only natural that they’re now more than happy to retire as policing faces more scrutiny. Staff members who need to show up to earn a living, on the other hand, may find that private sector jobs—or other kinds of government employment—don’t exactly come with all the perks of being a police officer.

Nor should it be assumed fewer police officers will mean higher crime. After all, the data shows that in spite of more officers and bigger budgets in recent decades police agencies haven’t actually improved their performance.

But if police reforms such as those in Colorado are causing some officers to quit, it would seem that’s all to the good. Those officers who are most adamant about quitting when faced with added accountability are exactly the ones we’d want to leave. Those who assume they’re most likely to be on the losing end of a police brutality case aren’t exactly the sorts of people we need to stick around. Author:

Contact Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado and was a housing economist for the State of Colorado. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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Reboot Government? No, Dismantle It | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on August 1, 2020

But a “new public operating system” will still carry with it the immoral baggage of the old one. It will be funded by taxes stolen from citizens. Its decrees will still be enforced by threats of force by an organization with a monopoly on violence.


Imagine my intrigue at seeing this subtitle kicking off a recent op-ed in USA Today:

Why do Americans hate Washington? One reason is that it makes us feel powerless.

Americans hating Washington? An article exploring how the state makes its citizens feel powerless?

Sign me up.

It didn’t take long, however, for me to be disappointed.

The article started out promising, by citing “discontent” toward government coming from “both sides.”

“A survey in 2018, for example, found that almost two-thirds of Americans favored ‘very major reform’ of government, almost double from 20 years ago,” the article noted.

“Political leaders sow division” it continued.


The article next itemized some obstacles to reforming some of society’s pressing problems. Police unions stand in the way of firing bad cops. Red tape gummed up the response to the spread of coronavirus.

Disappointingly, however, the article quickly squandered an opportunity to educate readers how a significant reduction in state power and influence would be the best recipe to heal much of society’s division. Instead, it hits readers with this line:

“Americans need to feel that government can make things better.”

This turn for the worse should have come as no surprise, given the author of the piece, Philip K. Howard, is the head of an organization called “Campaign for the Common Good.”

Any group or person claiming to be working toward the “common good” immediately should raise a red flag for libertarians. Of course, we know there is no such thing as the “common good,” but rather an extremely diverse set of individuals with varying wants and differing plans on how to achieve happiness.

So, how do we achieve this common good and overcome citizen’s sense of powerlessness, according to Mr. Howard?

“Let people take responsibility again. Give officials and citizens alike goals and guiding principles, and then let other people hold them accountable,” he recommends.

Who should “give” officials and citizens their goals and guiding principles goes unanswered.

Moreover, Howard states that overcoming powerlessness involves “letting” government officials do their job, including suggestions such as “Let local public health officials respond immediately to the pandemic,” “(L)et designated officials issue infrastructure permits after reasonable review,” and “(L)et teachers maintain order in the classroom.”

Such suggestions may be great for government officials, but doesn’t do much for citizens. Indeed, his suggestions further entrench the state as problem-solver for society, removing opportunities for free citizens to responsibly solve problems through voluntary cooperation.

To his credit, Howard criticizes the government’s overly-complex law books that allow for little discretion on the part of public officials or citizens, and calls for a process of simplifying and stripping them down.

He supports this notion, however, in part because it will “reactivate(s) our link to government.”

The last thing we need is a greater link to the oppressive and divisive leviathan government.

“Governing isn’t this hard,” Howard assures us. “America needs a new public operating system that re-empowers people with responsibility to deal sensibly with the situation before them.”

But a “new public operating system” will still carry with it the immoral baggage of the old one. It will be funded by taxes stolen from citizens. Its decrees will still be enforced by threats of force by an organization with a monopoly on violence.

Howard is focused largely on making government more efficient in carrying out its functions, and uninterested in limiting its size and scope. This won’t reduce the division that he expressed concern over. The state sows division because if forces some to fund others through welfare and wealth redistribution schemes, and it compels people with vastly different preferences to live under the same arbitrary rules having nothing to do with protecting people’s person and property.

Amazingly, Howard concludes with the statement, “The best cure for alienation is ownership.”

But that starts with self-ownership, not reducing red tape to allow government agents to more swiftly enforce their decrees or spend stolen taxpayer money.

Citizens feel powerless because the state is empowered to initiate force against them, with no repercussions. Powerlessness is not felt because government contractors are slowed from starting their tax-funded projects due to red tape.

Mr. Howard largely gets the diagnosis right. More people are getting frustrated with government and recognizing it as a source of division. Disappointingly, he gets the cure wrong.

Instead of a “reboot” of government, society needs a radical rollback of its power.

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website and author of the book “Tweeting Liberty: Libertarian Tweets to Smash Statists and Socialists.” He is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics. Follow him on Twitter: @erasestate.

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Three Ways Law Enforcement Must Be Reformed Right Now | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on June 11, 2020

I don’t know which acts of police abuse and brutality are motivated by racism and which are not. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we could end all racial bias immediately through some magic spell or button we could press. Would this end police abuse, or even most of it?

Experience tells us no. The data is clear that police abuse is not limited to any particular group. Indeed, a majority of those shot by police are white.

For example, when police officer Phillip Brailsford gunned down Daniel Shaver, it’s unlikely that he was motivated by some sort of ethnic or racial bias. The same was probably true when police shot Duncan Lemp in his sleep during a no-knock raid, or when police pinned Tony Timpa to the ground until he died. After Timpa died police joked about it, and apparently found the situation quite hilarious. This is not limited just to local police personnel. When federal agents massacred more than eighty (mostly white) men, women, and children at Waco, law enforcement officers probably weren’t motivated by the race of their victims, either.

Police also appear to have no aversion to being callously indifferent toward victims of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. When police elected to cower outside Stoneman Douglas High School rather than face the gunman slaughtering children inside, it’s unlikely that they paid much attention to the racial makeup of the student body (a majority of which was white.)

Unfortunately, anecdotes like these could be recalled for hours and hours.

“But nonwhites are more often targeted proportionally!,” some might say. This may be so, and indeed some may decide that turning police into equal-opportunity abusers is a type of progress in itself, but it hardly addresses the systemic foundations of police abuse.

And the underlying problems are substantial. They are systemic and built into the law enforcement community in the United States for several reasons.

First, police are protected from accountability both by laws granting them legal immunity and by police labor unions that shield abusers. Secondly, the proliferation of laws designed to target nonviolent people for petty offenses (most commonly drug offenses) provides police with nearly endless opportunities to stop and harass people who have committed no real crime.

Murray Rothbard has illustrated how the ideal in this situation would be a type of police privatization. But for those who are not yet ready for such a radical reform, much can be done in the meantime through more mild, yet very necessary, reforms.

One: End Legal Immunity for Police

At the core of the issue is a lack of accountability and legal liability on the part of government employees who enforce the laws. Thanks to activist progovernment judges and legislation designed to shield police, it is extremely difficult to hold abusive law enforcement agents accountable.

Chris Calton explains:

The doctrine of qualified immunity essentially says that for a police officer to be held accountable, there must be a statute specifying all the particularities of his or her unique situation. Anything even remotely ambiguous falls under the broad category of “discretion.” In theory, legal immunity is “qualified,” but in practice, it is effectively absolute.

This way of thinking, however, is only a few decades old. It was solidified in American law by activist Supreme Court judges in 1967. Their ruling essentially created new law which erected new barriers against holding police accountable for abusive behavior.

As ABC reported this week:

While the Civil Rights Act of 1871 gives Americans the unambiguous ability to sue public officials over civil rights violations, the Supreme Court has subsequently limited liability to only those rights that have become “clearly established law.”

Critics say the standard is near-impossible to meet.

“In order for a plaintiff to defeat qualified immunity, they have to find a prior case that has held unconstitutional an incident with virtually identical facts to the one the plaintiff is bringing,” said UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz. “And over the last 15 years, the court has made it a more and more difficult standard for plaintiffs to overcome to go to trial.”

Last month, a Reuters report noted that “the doctrine has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.”

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