Police unions have forced U.S. police departments to rehire more than 450 police officers who were terminated for everything from unbecoming behavior to assault and sexual abuse, The Washington Post revealed Thursday.
WaPo investigated nearly 1,900 firings from 37 police departments across the country since 2006 and found police chiefs had been forced to rehire 451 of the fired officers, one of whom served as a getaway driver for a suspected murderer. Each of the re-hirings had one thing in common: Police union contracts requiring the appeal of disciplinary measures.
In one case, the Washington, D.C., police underwent an eight-year legal battle to avoid rehiring Michael Blaise Sugg-Edwards, a police officer who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old in his patrol vehicle. The officer’s union got involved, filing an appeal to the firing, claiming it was too harsh a punishment.
Union attorneys represented the officer against the police department before an arbitrator, who ruled in favor of the unions and ordered Sugg-Edwards reinstated, WaPo reported.
“Police officers go into people’s homes . . . and they have the authority to take people’s freedom,” Police Chief Peter Newsham told WaPo. “And you’re going to return somebody into that role, somebody who has that responsibility and authority, who’s been involved in extreme misconduct? I don’t think anybody is comfortable with that.”
The 37 departments that responded to WaPo information requests have employed 91,000 officers since 2006, and there were only 1,881 firings. This, however, is common wherever unions are involved.
As the Daily Caller News Foundation has reported, Veterans Affairs (VA) employee and teachers’ unions are notorious for making it nearly impossible to fire their members.
In March, TheDCNF discovered that a VA hospital held a job open for its accountant while he served a prison term for killing a man. The local union president at the time, Kevin McGee, admitted to intervening to make it happen. “I said give him a chance, why not,” McGee told TheDCNF. Managers of the VA facility complied.
Parents in Minnesota are also fighting an ongoing lawsuit against the state’s teachers unions, claiming that teacher tenure and other union rules protect bad teachers which in turn widens the academic achievement gap among children.
When teachers are unfireable, education suffers, but when police chiefs and veterans’ facilities are forced to rehire bad employees, public safety pays the price.
“It’s demoralizing to the rank and file who really don’t want to have those kinds of people in their ranks,” Charles H. Ramsey, former police commissioner in Philadelphia told WaPo. “It causes a tremendous amount of anxiety in the public. Our credibility is shot whenever these things happen.”
With 1,881 officers being fired in the 37 departments since 2006, 2 percent of the 91,000 officers hired, the rate of firing is already low. To have nearly a quarter of those firings reversed by union action is an invitation for scrutiny.
“The message is huge,” Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty told WaPo, “Officers know all they have to do is grieve it, arbitrate it and get their jobs back.”
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