Saturday, February 05, 2005

Just desserts

Austin police chief Stan Knee made his bed and now he's lying in it, or perhaps about it.

During the last round of police labor negotiations, Knee acquiesced to demands to gut APD's disciplinary process, making it nearly impossible to get rid of bad cops in Austin under the city's meet and confer agreement. The agreement could have fixed exactly the problem that's got him in trouble now, if he'd had the cojones to stand up to the police union at the bargaining table. He didn't.

This time around, after he tried to fire an officer for "failing to report an officer-involved 911 call and then falsifying a government document in order to 'cover for the officer," according to the Austin Chronicle, Knee found that technicalities in the state civil service law would have let the officer off, so he fudged a sworn statement. The press is making him out to be the bad guy, and city manager Toby Futrell recently had him in for a perhaps-not-so-friendly chat.

I don't feel sorry for Knee a bit. He arrogantly dismissed concerns that the rules made it too easy for officers to get away with misconduct. Now he's being hoisted by his own petard.

After all that, to boot, an arbitrator overturned Chief Knee's decision to fire the officer, as happens in almost every case where an Austin chief tries to fire officers for misconduct. And as Howard Bashman noted recently, an arbitrator pretty much gets to do what he wants.

I've been watching the Austin Police Department for too long, because I feel too jaded to get very excited about this. The story, "Bad APD cop will stay on force" sounds to me like old news -- perhaps next week's headline shall be "Sun rises in east, sets in west"? The fight over whether APD would be able to discipline bad cops was already decided -- in the negative -- when the 2004 "meet and confer" labor agreement was approved. Everyone who was involved in that clusterfuck disgraced themselves, as far as I'm concerned. So if Austin has to live with the bad cops on the force no matter what, I'm glad at least Chief Knee may get his comeuppance.

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