Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Dallas police management should ignore union demagoguery

Last year, Grits lamented bullying behavior by the Dallas Police Association at the Texas Legislature, so I'm unsurprised to learn they've resorted to similar tactics at the city level. An earlier Dallas Morning News report said Dallas PD Officer Amy Wilburn was fired "after an independent witness told investigators that 19-year-old Kelvion Walker had his hands up and showed no signs of having a weapon when Wilburn shot him Dec. 9." The DMN's Tanya Eiserer reported last week that the union sent the city manager a letter in response claiming Wilburn's firing means "Dallas Police Officers no longer know when they can use deadly force and, if they do, question whether they are going to be fired if they are forced to." But "don't shoot the guy with his hands raised" doesn't seem like too much to ask.

In their letter, DPA president Brian Pinkston wrote, "No longer does the DPA only focus on better pay and benefits" but also advocates "polices" to make the department "more effective and efficient" at promoting public safety. At the Lege, that meant promoting the expansion of wiretapping authority. In Dallas, that means opposing limits on high-speed chases aimed at reducing injuries to officers and civilians and now, opposing body cameras and management-backed changes to training in the wake of unjustified shootings. Reported Eiserer:
Pinkston, who became president about two years ago, wrote that the association has “tried to work with DPD management” and “stood by management on many occasions, including the Southwest drug debacle and the botched handling of the South Dallas rapist.”

The “drug debacle” is clearly a reference to the controversy surrounding the failure of police commanders to launch an investigation into the conduct of two Southwest patrol officers once they became aware of misconduct surrounding a botched drug raid. Brown lightly punished two deputy chiefs for their handling of the situation. The department’s second in command also recently admitted that he mishandled the situation when he, too, became aware of the allegations of misconduct involving the two officers.

In the case of the South Dallas rapist, [Chief David] Brown came under intense criticism because the department didn’t more quickly notify the public about a series of rapes and for releasing the name of a “person of interest” who turned not to have had anything to do with the attacks.
Well, naturally DPA didn't mind when the department was recalcitrant about punishing officers who lied in police reports and in court. They're the ones whose job it is to try and prevent the department from disciplining bad actors! And it hardly affords the union extra credit if they failed to criticize the chief for not wanting to publicly vilify somebody for rapes he did not commit. What's really going on here is that DPA "stands by" management when they agree with them (or when they don't have a dog in the fight), and play the bully when management behave like managers and discipline or fire officers who don't follow the rules.

This is pure demagoguery on DPA's part. Hopefully DPD management and the city council will see it for what it is.


Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I never wanted to live in any area where DPD had jurisdiction was a complete lack of faith in the department. Other than when David Kunkel was chief, DPD has been woefully lacking in leadership from the top down and the DPA has exacerbated the problem with trying to hamstring the DPD management by fighting the firing of officers who should never have been hired in the first place.

DPA and DPD management have made strange bedfellows over the years and nothing seems to have changed.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the person that had his full name, address, photo & media all up in his grill for quite some time -

Since this was basically a false arrest and wrongful conviction performed from a podium with the misinformed public at large being the jury, all 100% without any of police report or pre-investigation, does he qualify for an out of court settlement?

If yes, then how long do you think it'll be before someone sees this as an opportunity to have a buddy call crime stoppers on them and split the proceeds in another out of court taxpayer funded settlement (aka - bribe to forget about it)?

If yes, then the public was not only hoodwinked, it was given the tab as the responsible parties slipped out the bathroom window.

Bean Counter said...

The primary role of a police union is to insure their members are treated fairly, be it pay & benefits, policies & procedures, or in how the officers are utilized. In Texas, unions have precious little power to impact policy other than when they cut a check to a politician or offer their political endorsement.

Most of the time, a union will support a member when it is a case of the member being vilified by the media or charged with wrongdoing because the union is lawfully obligated to provide an attorney. There is also the bigger picture that the officer should be allowed all the benefits of counsel because at any time, any one of their peers may be falsely accused of something else; it's a system in place for a long, long time.

If anything, I think police management, and city leaders for that matter, should listen to everything their police unions come up with. That doesn't mean marching in lockstep or falling all over themselves to cater to the union stance, it just means that some of the best ideas come from such organizations. Unions come up with silly ideas or draw fantastical conclusions all the time but it doesn't mean they are always wrong or that their input is always flawed.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Bean Counter, you're kidding yourself if you believe police "unions have precious little power to impact policy." That tells me you don't personally know much about the policy making process, at all.

Nobody said their "input is always flawed." I said their input in this particular instance amounted to blatant demagoguery.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I tend to agree with Bean in this matter given so many recent examples of unions being flat out ignored by management and elected officials. In Harris County, the unions have been largely ignored for years on anything of substance. In the nearby city, Houston's unions haven't had much say in ten years. None of the smaller cities have unions worth a spit in influencing anyone either. Perhaps you can provide some examples?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@1:16/3:08, Austin's police union basically runs the city council on policing issues and in Dallas they have disproportionate power. At the Lege, they have a lot of Dems basically in their pocket and the Rs defer to them more than they should.

They're not as powerful as they were when Dems ran the state - no unions are - but they have more power than is justified and often overreach beyond labor and employment issues into policy where they're generally a regressive force that reflexively opposes reform.

Anonymous said...

First off, they are not unions. Public safety employees in Texas do not have union protections. The associations can write letters to city council, provide attorneys to protect an officer's civil service rights, and lobby politicians. Other than that, they really don't have much power. They cannot call a strike or "job action." There are no grievances or arbitration, no contracts or guaranteed working conditions. And although Democrats are very cozy with actual (AFL/CIO) unions, they could really care less about what an association does.
Secondly, what is their argument? That the officer deserves to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and not by the media? That she has the right to a trial of facts before a fair an impartial jury of her peers before losing her career? That she has a right to confront witnesses against her (who based on the video does not appear to have been in a position to see what he said he saw)? That she has the same constitutional rights as any other US citizen? That other officers when faced with the same decision may think in the back of their mind that although they may be in the right, they are going to be subjected to the same public shaming as this officer has been and while they are working that out in their heads they or another innocent third person are killed? Nope, it's much more interesting headlines to convict them within an hour and parade them to the world in stockades.

Bean Counter said...

I suspect I have more knowledge of Texas police union power than anyone posting on your website, including yourself. My firsthand knowledge comes from the two largest departments in the state and I am sure I have more direct contacts at Austin, Dallas, and other departments than you or your employers could ever dream of possessing.

Austin PD is one of the best compensated in the state and their union certainly has more influence than most but it still falls far short of your claims. Dallas PD's union, the subject of your initial complaint, is also better compensated than my locals but employs an HPD officer as a chief negotiator that I have known personally for decades. He has ample details of how Dallas has changed over the years to suggest to me that they are even further away from your assessment than Austin is.

The contention that they are unduly powerful and catered to is a fiction of epic proportion. I know it might be strange to think that police officers working in the trenches might have some expertise in matters impacting them, how they do their jobs, and what might work best in a given situation but it's a truism I cannot overstate. The corrollary to that is that it seems as if no two police officers will ever agree to anything, ever, other than their general compensation is too low. Given the push to obtain a formal education, many front line officers have been exposed to rather high level ideas beyond that which my generation ever considered, discarding such knowledge simply because the source coming across as foolish.

Anon 1/16/2014 05:49:00 PM:
Many officers in Texas are in unions, albeit unions will far fewer powers than their counterparts elsewhere and much less influence. We do arbitrate all the time, file grievances and engage in contracts too. Otherwise I agree with you in large part that an officer should be treated with all the rights anyone else has despite the way larger departments have a tendency to treat as us interchangable cogs and guilty unless proven innocent internally while hushing up when the ambulance chasers look for ways to bleed the taxpayers dry over every mistake, incovenience, and stereotypical attitude that comes their way.