by Thomas Franklin
Being a former law enforcement officer, I had witnessed many years of my colleagues perform admirably in life-threatening situations, but were subsequently eviscerated in the mainstream media. The media tends to portray the predators as victims, and makes villains out of the protectors. The vast majority of officers I have worked with entered this line of work due to a strong commitment to public service and wanting to help and protect their fellow citizens. Without protective services though, civilization would descend into a chaotic, Mad Max-type world. There are unfortunately very disturbed people in this world who choose to wreak havoc by slipping into this line of work and become the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Unfortunately, these agents of chaos sometimes infiltrate and infect the organizations that were established to protect us. So, how do these predators, once identified, still continue to exist in these agencies? Well, as in all wicked problems, it is complicated, but we can dissect and analyze the problem to find the root cause. Then, and only then can we experiment and prescribe a treatment. As you probably know by now, just treating the symptoms of a disease may bring temporary relief, but once the treatment is stopped, or worse, the disease mutates and adapts, you will be worse off than you were before.
Organizational Immunosuppressant Issues
Recent medical and scientific studies have shown that cancer exists in our bodies because it is able to essentially cloak itself from our immune system. If our immune system were able to identify cancer cells, the white blood cells would destroy them upon detection. Cancer can silently cohabitate in our system, consuming resources, replicating, and essentially destroying organs, and other essential functions in our body. It survives because our system has not adapted to identify this invasive enemy; it is usually identified because of late-stage symptoms and external scans. The same goes for any organization that cannot (or will not) identify bad actors and take the necessary action; isolate, mitigate or eliminate the infiltrators before they can do harm. It is a sad fact, but true to state that monsters do exist in our society and are oftentimes difficult to detect because of their advanced, manipulative behavior. These disturbed individuals can and have been able to pass police background checks, psychological and polygraph tests, and numerous job interviews to enter into one of the most sensitive jobs in our society. Once they are in, they are protected by a myriad of civil service, union, and administrative rights. These rights were essential when they were enacted for incredibly good reasons and the intentions were noble, but this path has truly led us to the hellscape we have witnessed.
Take the City of Los Angeles, the average LAPD officer needs to be protected from corrupt politicians who can enter into the government by an apathetic or ignorant voting public. For example, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was elected with just three percent of the vote! Corrupt politicians then exacerbate the issue by hiring (as is their right through the City Charter), either ethically challenged or incompetent “useful idiots” into executive management positions. This is done either as political pay-paybacks, or to help ensure politicians are able to curb or control any investigations that may arise into their dealings. These bad managers need allies from the rank and file officers, and good officers are generally at odds with these incompetents. So, naturally as the old saying goes, “birds of feather…”, the bad managers form a natural alliance with the bad officers and thus a vicious cycle is generated. To make matters worse, these rotten apples are protected by corrupt unions, politically-appointed civil service board of governors, and the as-stated administration of the department. If a good officer stands against a corrupt officer or speaks up against the unethical actions taken within the department, the officer will suffer disgrace as a “snitch”, permanently damage their career prospects, and most disconcerting, have their lives put in danger by being assigned the most dangerous posts. This is how the department is infiltrated and insidiously defeated from within by hijacking the system meant to protect good intentioned and ethical officers. With such widespread infiltration and metastases, how can anyone make substantive improvements against such overwhelming odds?
Organizational Chemotherapy or Awaken the Immune System
The patient, or in this case the organization, can be saved, and come back to a thriving state though it will not be easy, and it will take an active political will of the populace to demand this type of change. True change will not come from the majority of politicians, for it does not serve their purpose as outlined earlier.
The voting populace must put forth a ballot measure to remove union interference with personnel-related matters. One reason for these police unions other than as representation in discipline hearings and investigations is labor and wage negotiations. Wage increases for the police (and all civil servants for that matter) should be tied to the economic growth and inflation rates automatically. The rate of pay of public servants should not be tied into a political influence where labor unions use their members’ dues to help elect politicians who will make favorable concessions during labor negotiations. This is a vicious circle that needs to be eliminated immediately. Great power has been given to these labor organizations who use mob tactics to protect their members, especially those with questionable work histories. A better model must be created taking the negotiation out of this element and providing legal representation (paid for by the department but hired by the officer) in cases that involve discipline. A good officer should not be made to pay for his defense if he is been wrongly accused of malfeasance. If criminals are provided a public defender, why shouldn’t police officers be provided with an attorney? Perhaps this cost can be offset with a deduction from the officer’s pay into a pre-paid legal service.
There has also been a major push towards removing qualified immunity from the police, and while this is a controversial topic, this passes, it should be taken a few steps further. Make the civil service commission, Mayor, Chief of Police, union, and supervisors personally financially liable for the actions of the offending officers if these officers have had a history of complaints or discipline problems. This action alone will cause those in positions of responsibility take their positions much more seriously and take proactive steps to weed out the bad cops.