OPINION: The Shutdown Hurts Police And Border Patrol — And That’s A Threat To Public Safety

Frank Ricci | New Haven Battalion Chief, Union President

The partial shutdown is leaving Border Patrol and TSA working without pay. This only serves to jeopardize public safety. Without pay, we are going to need another Frank Serpico to save Homeland Security.

The integrity of public safety personnel has come a long way since the 1970s when former NYPD Officer Frank Serpico stated, “Ten percent of the cops in New York City are absolutely corrupt, 10 percent are absolutely honest, and the other 80 percent — they wish they were honest.”

Low pay — not no pay — was one of the major contributing factors combined with a culture of entitlement, cronyism and political horse-trading. This was enough to infect an entire department.

Now, imagine the prospect of going weeks — perhaps months — without a paycheck in an environment where drugs, cash, weapons and human trafficking are the norm. Homeland security could be compromised for years.

As a chief officer and union leader, I have seen firsthand when good people make bad decisions. We hire from the public and no agency is completely immune from the ills of society.

Even when employees are properly vetted, temptation and stress can leave them vulnerable to potential corruption. I acknowledge that most officers are beyond reproach, but how many officers are being set up to fail as a result of this shutdown?

Merit-based hiring, professional standards and oath of office and quality background checks are imperative to create a shared ethos ensuring members have the highest integrity.

The fear of being unable to provide for one’s family is real. Most public safety personnel live paycheck to paycheck. Compensation may be stopped, but the bills will not.

In the case of an airport screener working for the Transportation Security Administration, the wage is about $16 per hour. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents are only making between $35,000 and $76,000 a year to risk their lives, working in hostile situations in a job everyone critiques.

We expect our public safety personnel to perform with the highest integrity. We expect them to be polite, trained, professional and, yes, we demand that they are prepared to operate 10 feet past common sense placing the lives of others ahead of their own.

Yet our political class has failed them and us for far too long. They squabble as human trafficking and drugs pour across the border. True security takes an intergraded approach including physical barriers, technology and paid public safety personnel.

How is it sound public policy not to include funding for essential personnel in early appropriation bills?

Other critical parts of our government like the military are still being compensated. Essential safety personnel cannot be used as political pawns sacrificed to their worst demons. Once again, we will need the likes of Frank Serpico to bring accountability to an issue created by our leaders.

The thing about a bribe is once the bell is rung it cannot be un-rung. A look away at the right time or aiding drugs to enter the nation with the justification that the political class is completely indifferent.

How many more good people will make bad decisions? Lives will be ruined. In 2016 and 2017, 25 total (CBP) employees were indicted for corruption-related activity and I predict this number will exponentially increase.

The politicians have been long on speeches and short on action. Many live behind walls and fences with paid security. How safe would they feel if they failed to pay their own guards?

We have witnessed in other nations what happens when armies are not paid. They walk away, make bad choices and lose their will to fight.

The 420,000 federal employees deemed essential should not go without pay. This is unacceptable! Negotiating in good faith with the administration should end the shutdown. Leaders should ensure that essential positions should be funded in line with the military in the future so essential employees never go without pay again.

The other 380,000 non-essential employees are furloughed and are free to find other work or even file for unemployment. The administration should stand strong on these furloughs and evaluate the need for so many positions.

Union President Judd of the National Border Patrol Council has shown true leadership in the face of adversity. They feel that the shutdown is their best chance to protect their members in the long term and bring stability to the border with a physical barrier, technology and the best officers in the nation.

The union is willing to sacrifice pay to protect the border. However, these officers sacrifice enough. The Democrats are putting politics ahead of public safety. They should fund the wall and acknowledge reducing the flow of drugs that are destroying the fabric of our communities is sound public policy.

The administration needs to continue to support the union and remember walls and fences are just obstacles without eyes on them.

Frank Ricci was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Ricci v. DeStefano. He is an advisory board member for Fire Engineering, a battalion chief and union president in New Haven, Conn. Ricci’s opinions are not related to and do not reflect those of his employer of the professional organizations in which is involved.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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