Police Union Privileges

Earlier I wrote about how police unions around the country give to every officer dozens of “get out of jail” cards to give to friends, family, politicians, lawyers, judges and other connected people. The cards let police on the street know that the subject is to be given “professional courtesy” and they can be used to get out of speeding tickets and other infractions. Today, drawing on the Police Union Contracting Project, I discuss how union contracts and Law Officer “Bill of Rights” give police legal privileges that regular people don’t get.

In 50 cities and 13 states, for example, union contracts “restrict interrogations by limiting how long an officer can be interrogated, who can interrogate them, the types of questions that can be asked, and when an interrogation can take place.” In Virginia police officers have a right to at least a five-day delay before being interrogated. In Louisiana police officers have up to 30 days during which no questioning is allowed and they cannot be questioned for sustained periods of time or without breaks. In some cities, police officers can only be interrogated during work hours. Regular people do not get these privileges.

The key to a good interrogation is that the suspect doesn’t know what the interrogator knows so the suspect can be caught in a lie which unravels their story. Thus, the Florida Police Bill of Rights is stunning in what it allows police officers:

The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation must be informed of the nature of the investigation before any interrogation begins, and he or she must be informed of the names of all complainants. All identifiable witnesses shall be interviewed, whenever possible, prior to the beginning of the investigative interview of the accused officer. The complaint, all witness statements, including all other existing subject officer statements, and all other existing evidence, including, but not limited to, incident reports, GPS locator information, and audio or video recordings relating to the incident under investigation, must be provided to each officer who is the subject of the complaint before the beginning of any investigative interview of that officer.

By knowing what the interrogators know, the suspect can craft a story that fits the known facts–and the time privilege gives them the opportunity to do so.

Moreover, how do you think complainants feel knowing that the police officer they are complaining about “must be informed of the names of all complainants.” I respect and admire police officers but frankly I think this rule is dangerous. Would you come forward?

How effective would criminal interrogations be if the following rules held for ordinary citizens?

The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under interrogation may not be subjected to offensive language or be threatened with transfer, dismissal, or disciplinary action. A promise or reward may not be made as an inducement to answer any questions.

What does it say about our justice system that the police don’t want their own tactics used against them?

In the United States if you are arrested–even for a misdemeanor or minor crime, even if the charges are dropped, even if you are found not guilty–you will likely be burdened with an arrest record that can increase the difficulty of getting a job, an occupational license, or housing. But even in the unlikely event that a police officer is officially reprimanded many states and cities require that such information is automatically erased after a year or two. The automatic erasure of complaints makes it difficult to identify problem officers or a pattern of abuse.

Louisiana’s Police Officer Bill of Rights is one of the most extreme. It states that police have the right to expunge any violation of criminal battery and assault and any violation of criminal laws involving an “obvious domestic abuse.” Truly this is hard to believe but here is the law (note that sections (2)(a) and (b) do not appear, as I read it, to be limited to anonymous or unsubstantiated complaints).

A law enforcement officer, upon written request, shall have any record of a formal complaint made against the officer for any violation of a municipal or parish ordinance or state criminal statute listed in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection involving domestic violence expunged from his personnel file, if the complaint was made anonymously to the police department and the charges are not substantiated within twelve months of the lodging of the complaint.
(2)(a) Any violation of a municipal or parish ordinance or state statute defining criminal battery and assault.
(b) Any violation of other municipal or parish ordinances or state statutes including criminal trespass, criminal damage to property, or disturbing the peace if the incident occurred at either the home of the victim or the officer or the violation was the result of an obvious domestic dispute.

In an excellent post on get out of free jail cards, Julian Sanchez writes:

…beyond being an affront to the ideal of the rule of law in the abstract, it seems plausible that these “get out of jail free” cards help to reinforce the sort of us-against-them mentality that alienates so many communities from their police forces. Police departments that want to demonstrate they’re serious about the principle of equality under the law shouldn’t be debating how many of these cards an average cop gets to hand out; they should be scrapping them entirely.

Equality under the law also requires that privileges and immunities extend to all citizens equally.

Hat tip: Tate Fegley.

Comments

It is interesting to noted that all these advantages can be had by anyone who has a lawyer. A lawyer can prohibit all interrogations or put special conditions on them etc. Since the 5th says an individual can decline any interrogation all the cards would be in the lawyers' hands on behalf of his client.

I believe one argument is that cops are a bit unique in that they are the one job where taking the 5th is prohibited on pain of being fired. Normally your boss wouldn't even know if you took the 5th and refused to answer questions.

So you might construct an argument that police should have some abnormal protections against interrogation or you could say they should just have an absolute right to take the 5th without being fired.

Any employer is free to fire an employee who takes the 5th. The only protection it conveys is against testifying; it doesn't protect against other adverse consequences. And the police union privileges described are much broader than the 5th; the latter applies only when one is in fear of incriminating oneself, while the police union privileges also allow am officer to obstruct an investigation in order to protect other officers.

This is just another post from a NON COP who is commenting on something he doesn't have a clue about.

I have 28 years as a police office. I served and protected. Now let me ask you if I'm qualified to blog on economics? No, didn't think so.

You see my point.

Somehow I imagine that you open your mouth to speak on any number of subjects in which you did not spend a career. The implication that no one except law enforcement should comment on and consider criminal justice, specifically perversions of it which were designed to allow people in your field to obstruct justice and trade enforcement leniency for favor or favors, is absurd and demonstrative of your disregard for justice.

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So only cops are allowed to question or hold cops accountable?

Nodoby seems more determined to make me a police abolitionist than the cops themselves.

We have to understand that this guy is speaking from a position of privilege that he helped create and maintain, in which he is essentially an island of immunity to the law for himself and in lesser degree his family and friends.

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Look-up the term: Argument From Authority.

It doesnt take a Contitutional scholar to evaluate wether or not the Rights and Protections extended to one group are equivalent to those extended to another. In this case the certainly are not.

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Mr. Retired Police Chief, you "served" whom exactly? Presumably the public. Would that possibly entitle the public to ask their servants some questions?

BTW, since I am in year 35 of my job, I am curious how you retired after 28 years? If you became a police officer at, say, age 22, you retired at age 50. The taxes I have paid for 35 years contribute to your retirement benefits. Does that possibly entitle us taxpayers to ask questions about the privileges enjoyed by our public servants?

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You sound like part of the problem.

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Most comments here are from people who are both non-cops and non-economists. But fact based corrections are welcome. Exactly what are people getting wrong here?

Looking at the responses, it seems the item I got wrong is that this 'immunity to interrogation' only applies to disciplinary procedures and is not a way to frustrate criminal investigations where a cop might either be the suspect or might be a witness but reluctant to get the suspect in trouble. I wonder, though, if there's not some overlap? For example, after some cases where cops have killed a person in a questionable manner, the media reports that the cop cannot be immediately questioned because of rules like this.....even though a shooting among civilians would clearly be a criminal investigation. Then again I do sense a potential conflict here where a cop may be pressured to explain a questionable shooting on behalf of his job and career but then if prosecution is a danger then he would be advised to take the 5th.

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A sadly typical appeal to authority. "I'm a cop, so I automatically know."

If you do your homework, you might become qualified to blog on economics.

Dr. Tabarrok does his homework.

Came across this example of how there is no effort made to enforce peace and public safety laws with this officer involved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSldpG_nSro&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58_K4SA4wH4&t=2s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqZSewoekL8

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You're such a little pig. I put in 15 years - last five rotating in and out as a detective on a Cali force. Murder police and big felony police aside, most cops are assholes who care far more about their pension than justice. It IS just as clubby as Hollywood libs say it is, and mediocrity rules through union bullshit. Murder and felony one cops are a breed apart -- we really care and we do a great job, most of the time -- I'm proud to have been in their number. The rest of the crew are time-serving assholes who don't give a fuck about anything or anyone outside their little club. It probably always was this way and probably always be -- but don't pull credentials to say it's not, Badge. You're full of shit.

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Troll

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You're not making the point you think you're making.

As it happens, you are entitled to comment about economics in the comments section of this blog. If you say something which seems like it might be in error, people who know more about economics will often explain where you went wrong.

You are entitled to do the same for people who know less than you about criminal justice. And yet all you're saying is "I know and you don't." You're not making any sort of claims or offering any evidence which would allow us to conclude that you're right about policing. You seem to be simply radiating the sort of attitude that leads to the sort of corruption Alex has described.

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Hopefully when you retired you were replaced by someone who was less of an authoritarian dunce

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You certainly don't sound like a police chief. Maybe a local sheriff? This kind of internet-based 'shut up, you' doesn't come from the kind of people who have to do the political dance you get in senior office.

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IANAL, but my understanding is that no lawyer can force police to disclose evidence and what constitutes probable cause to their clients prior to their initial custodial questioning. Durr.

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I am a lawyer, and the statement that "all these advantages can be had by anyone who has a lawyer" is incorrect.

For example, in most states, a non-police officer is not afforded the following rights:

1. The interrogation shall be conducted at a reasonable hour.

2. The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under investigation must be informed of the nature of the investigation before any interrogation begins, and he or she must be informed of the names of all complainants. All identifiable witnesses shall be interviewed, whenever possible, prior to the beginning of the investigative interview of the accused officer. The complaint, all witness statements, including all other existing subject officer statements, and all other existing evidence, including, but not limited to, incident reports, GPS locator information, and audio or video recordings relating to the incident under investigation, must be provided to each officer who is the subject of the complaint before the beginning of any investigative interview of that officer.

3. The law enforcement officer or correctional officer under interrogation may not be subjected to offensive language.

Here is a good law review article detailing how such protections are not afforded to regular people (https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=5004&context=jclc)

But you could just sit there and refuse to talk, right, using the fifth unless you were just a witness. Can they still keep you there for hours and tell at you?

Yes. You get the unique privilege of sitting there saying 'no comment' for 5 hours or more. For however long they can hold you without charge.

I believe that one you assert your fifth amendment rights, the interrogation has to end. They can't keep asking you questions hoping you'll change your mind.

I suppose they could still keep you in custody, but the police contract doesn't protect them from being kept in custody either.

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Came across this example of how there is no effort made to enforce peace and public safety laws with this officer involved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSldpG_nSro&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58_K4SA4wH4&t=2s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqZSewoekL8

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It's called a police state--a country where police have more rights than the "ordinary" citizen. A democracy is a country where people have the same rights as police.

You know nothing about police states.

"I respect and admire police officers but frankly I think this rule is dangerous. " AT

... an insincere or grossly naive assertion. General "Admiration" for an arrogant class of armed government bureaucrats with broad, violent, non-constitutional authorities over the citizenry ??

I respected police officers until I had cause to deal with them. In my town the arrogance and ignorance of the median officer is appalling. I now respect those worthy of respect and have disdain for many.

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You can't just redefine terms to mean whatever you want. Well I mean you can, but then the only person who will agree with your definitions is you.

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Yeah so now the old NYC (and Boston) practice of bending the rules slightly—re: parking tickets!—to help your tribe is equivalent to a police state?

No doubt some of these perks should be reined in (around here my cop friends get 10% discounts in sporting goods stores and at least 20% at the local butcher) but get real. Or read about real police states.

Yeah, a police state would be a place where cops could kill someone and not go to jail, right?

You can kill if in fear for your life. SNOWFLAKES!

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Is the first step. Its putting them on a pedastle its putting above ordinary people, its allowing them to believe they are entitled to special treatment.

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It's not a police state. It's more like a bunch of co-existing small-scale protection operations funded by local taxpayers and granted concessions by lawmakers.

We should focus on how these legal privileges whitewash the reputations of forces, which in turn makes it a lot easier to "back the blue". For example, cops are the strongest opponents of laws that bar domestic violence perpetrators from owning/carrying, because they a) have high rates of domestic violence; b) need guns to do their jobs.

(The obvious contrasting structural example for policing is Canada.)

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'union contracts “restrict interrogations by limiting how long an officer can be interrogated, who can interrogate them, the types of questions that can be asked, and when an interrogation can take place.”'

You do realize that this does not apply to criminal investigations, right? (Yes, I know, as if the police are de facto subject to criminal investigation, but that is separate from a job action.) After all, that is in the Florida link you provided - 'RIGHTS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHILE UNDER INVESTIGATION.—Whenever a law enforcement officer or correctional officer is under investigation and subject to interrogation by members of his or her agency for any reason that could lead to disciplinary action, suspension, demotion, or dismissal, the interrogation must be conducted under the following conditions:'

'Moreover, how do you think complainants feel knowing that the police officer they are complaining about “must be informed of the names of all complainants.” I respect and admire police officers but frankly I think this rule is dangerous.'

Of course this post actually relates in the main to job actions, but this is a bedrock American constitutional principle, and it is not 'dangerous' for the accused to have a right to face their accuser. As the 6th Amendment notes - 'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.'

'How effective would criminal interrogations be if the following rules held for ordinary citizens?'

Are you truly unaware of the distinction between a job action (as noted above) and a criminal investigation/interrogation?

'What does it say about our justice system that the police don’t want their own tactics used against them?'

Nothing. See above.

This however, from Louisiana is outrageous - 'No statement made by the police employee or law enforcement officer during the course of an administrative investigation shall be admissible in a criminal proceeding.' It also may not actually be legal, though some information is not admissible in a criminal investigation under American law, such as client/attorney conversations.

You're further reinforcing the point that these privileges are much broader than the constitutional protections you mention. Ordinary citizens don't have a general right not to give evidence in a "job action" against oneself or one's co-workers. The Confrontation Clause only protects confrontation of witnesses at trial; it's not a general right to be apprised of the status of an investigation.

'You’re further reinforcing the point that these privileges are much broader than the constitutional protections you mention.'

If you say so. I thought I was pointing out that criminal law is different from union employment contracts, a distinction that Prof. Tabarrok does not seem to have made.

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The answer to that question is 'it depends'. There are still union workers and workers who have contracts so how 'job actions' are handled will depend on how those contracts are written.

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The "outrageous" Louisiana provisions is mandated by a 50-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision. Check out Garrity v. New Jersey.

Good catch, legal beagle. But the broader question is why public servants need such Miranda warnings, so AlexT has a point. ("Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967),[1] was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that law enforcement officers and other public employees have the right to be free from compulsory self-incrimination. It gave birth to the Garrity warning, which is administered by investigators to suspects in internal and administrative investigations in a similar manner as the Miranda warning is administered to suspects in criminal investigations.")

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'is mandated'

Not exactly, as Ray's information points out - 'the right to be free from compulsory self-incrimination.' It appears as if Louisiana's law go beyond that framework - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrity_warning

More information is welcome, of course. Ray's was certainly useful.

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"Equality under the law also requires that privileges and immunities extend to all citizens equally."

Why is Alex posting this glib nonsense. Does he get upset that zookeepers don't have to pay to see the animals? Of course as someone said, every profession is a conspiracy against the laity, and yet the perks the police apparently have here really don't make me want to be a policeman.

If I could chose, I think I'd prefer to have a cushy academic job.

...that's a very apt metaphor for general police attitude towards the American populace --
"Police are Zookeepers" !

Thanks, good insight on the core of the police state.

…that’s a very apt metaphor in general

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That ". . . extend to all citizens equally." "ship" sailed a long time ago. Likely, with the first piece of legislation enacted by the First Congress.

Also, once upon a time in America, people were presumed innocent until proven guilty. That ship sailed . . .

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Having privileges that protect you from being sent to prison or having convictions on your record is not like getting a free ticket to the zoo.

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The police know where you work, where you live, and what you write on this blog. I suppose I am impressed that Tabarrok is brave enough to write this post. But, hey, Peter Boettke has written some far braver stuff. And actually published it for anyone to read! Sure, many of us may agree with Tabarrok and Boettke, but we don't say it out loud for others to hear, much less publish it for anyone to read. On the other hand, maybe I have it all wrong, maybe Tabarrok and Boettke aren't brave at all, maybe they aren't people, maybe they are bots.

My guess is the police won’t pop round and have a chat with you, Ray.

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Now you have a huge bull's eye on your back. God help you.

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Other people just need to organize and advocate for themselves like the police do.

Good comment. It's unfortunate how the democratic process devolves into a war of interest groups instead of being about devising universal principles of justice and other quaint nonsense. It's even more unfortunate that some people think that is good and right.

Kant for president in 2020!

Not eligible, non citizen

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Alex is desperately trying to make this a police thing, but it's a government union thing.

Take the same amount of time and effort, and look into what it takes to get a social studies teacher interrogated at work. (Or fired. Ha!)

Sure, the ramifications for cops are worse, but you'd think that a Big Idea Man like yourself would be more interested in the Big Picture. The problem is simple to see, as is the solution.

Since you've obviously taken the time and effort, let us know where social studies professors get domestic violence convictions expunged from their personnel files.

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Yeah, Commerce Department employees have all this same stuff written into their agreements because of their union. They also get to retire at 55 and collect 90% of their salary for the rest of their lives like the cops, because of their union.

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That's our Alex, lover of public sector unions! Hoo boy, you sure got his number!!

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My Social Studies teachers did not carry guns

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And to think that people claim that the US doesn't have an aristocracy.

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The post makes a fundamental factual mistake that infects the conclusions. Many of the so-called "protective" provisions being described apply to criminal, not administrative, investigations. As we all have the Fifth Amendment right to never participate in interrogations in criminal cases, what the article describes as protective really gives officers less rights than the average citizen.

Could you give an example of such administrative investigations ?

I would presume that most improper actions of a police officer would be subject to criminal charges of one sort or another.

Criminal investigation: shooting the mayor

Administrative investigation: shooting a black baby in the crib

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"I would presume that most improper actions of a police officer would be subject to criminal charges of one sort or another."

Case 1: Officer and his partner decided to park their car and sleep for their 2AM-5AM patrol rather than actually patrolling. Officer Bob is also on patrol and sees the two cops sleeping in their cruiser. Now Officer Bob is to be questioned about whether or not he saw the partners sleeping on the job.

Case 2: Officer Bob pulls over a drunk driver. The guy is clearly drunk and is holding an open bottle but before administering any sobriety tests, he recognizes him as an off-duty cop. He makes the guy promise to go right home and let's him go but the guy drives off and runs someone over. How Officer Bob is a *witness* to the crime of drunk driving.

Case 2.1: As a result of the previous case, Officer Bob is being investigated for not doing his job. He is also potentially facing a criminal investigation because he did not logged no stops the night in question and the prosecutor wants to charge him with filing false gov't records, a crime in this jurisdiction.

Case 2.2 Everything is as it happened before except Bob did log the stop as he was required too. However, his senior partner altered the log so no record would exist.

Case 1 seems to involve no criminal danger to Bob, so the 'protections against interrogation' might be a privilege as Bob would be inclined to utilize them to avoid ratting on his brother officers.

Case 2 is not a criminal case or job case involving Bob, but at witness to a crime Bob would have to admit in open court he didn't do his job correctly.

Case 2.1 is both criminal case against Bob and job action against Bob. If Bob answers questions he could expose himself to both getting fired and charged.

Case 2.2 in this case Bob might want to speak in order to protect his job, but speaking might conflict with a criminal lawyer's advice not to provide anything that could be used to prosecute him.

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There is a fundamental difference between a positive and negative right. The Fifth Amendment of affords each of us the opportunity to employ a lawyer or have one appointed to our defense, but these rights generally have to be invoked and there is certainly no expectation that law enforcement will voluntarily provide these things, nor certainly any requirement that they do so especially as it negatively impacts their ability to investigate crime.

There is a fundamental difference between the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment, counselor.

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"As we all have the Fifth Amendment right to never participate in interrogations in criminal cases"

So you wouldn't oppose broadening these police protections to include all citizens, such that all suspects get the evidence against them and a 5 day wait period before interrogations, mandatory breaks, and strict limits on what investigators can say, right? ...right?

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Police officers have the right to face accusers. Especially since Police are subject to more false accusations then normal people in the course of their duties. I suggest you go to traffic court and see how often defendants tell the truth.

The more aggressive a police officer is in his lawful duties the more likely he is to be the target of civilian complaints. It is human nature for people to react negatively to officers even when the officers are correctly performing their duties.

The FBI and other Federal agents are given the same protections and police unions often model their rules on the rules for Federal agents.

Police officers are often subject to witch hunts for political reasons. There is an implied (and overt) threat of negative repercussions in all police interrogations.

Rules around the questioning of police officers is a balance between protecting their constitutional rights and the need for oversight. This balance is negotiated through the officers union and elected officials. Potential abuses are subject to both local, State and Federal review.

Regular people are protected by constitutional protections and the presumption of innocence. Why shouldn't police officers?

+1.

I’ve had three dealings with the police in the last decade. In each case, the other party lost—and I rightly won—but the police were accused of incompetence and dishonesty (albeit in passing not in court).

Two were traffic incidents where my car had the imprint of the other cars on the side. Still, the other party lied: “Mr Thor’s car drove sideways like a crab and collided with the front of my innocent car.” And when the physical impossibility of this was pointed out by the police, the other party said the police were lying, lol

A lady blindly drove out of a parking spot from behind an SUV and hit my car. At first, I wasn't sure who was responsible, since it happened fast. However, after getting out and looking at the two cars, my car had damage to the right side and hers had some chipped paint on the bumper. My car is older and not worth much. I figured I could buff out most of the mark and it wasn't worth the hassle to deal with cops and insurance (and I was just arriving at a restaurant for lunch and was hungry). So, I generously offered to not worry about reporting the incident. It was in a parking lot, not a public street, and there were no injuries, so it was not considered an accident.

The Lady insisted that we had to call the cops and file a report for insurance. Then she was shocked when the cop told her that "I'm not an insurance agent, but it sure looks like it's your fault". She seemed to think that I had managed to move my car sideways into her front bumper after she had completely come to a stop.

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"Regular people are protected by constitutional protections and the presumption of innocence. Why shouldn’t police officers?"

Of course they should be and are protected by the constitution and presumption.of innocence. They don't need to be these provisions that put them above the law; they are to the detriment of the common citizen and can impede justice.

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> Police officers have the right to face accusers.

Yes, in a court of law. But what's being described is a right to know the accusers *before the interrogation begins*. That's completely different.

If it were the case that these contracts simply outlined the rights that we all have, there'd be no need for the contract. These are special protections the police enjoy, and the intent of them is quite clear.

I've known a bit about these investigation/interrogation protections, as well as the police cushy benefits/pensions, and the way they are able to freely harass minorities. The harassment is finally getting noticed, the pension problems are beginning to get noticed, and I can only hope that these ridiculous protections around investigations & interrogations see the same light of day.

Cops know that if most people understood these, they'd be in the streets with pitchforks.

From Dean Angelo president FOP Chicago
On Thursday, Angelo made it clear that changes to the disciplinary process won’t come without a fight. He dismissed anonymous complaints as “generally baseless.”

“Our contract protects all of our members and secures just cause in the process of discipline and separation and any other type of internal or external allegations. Those protections are there because of abuse that has occurred in the past discipline-wise,” he said.

“Affidavits are there to protect officers from unfounded or just arbitrary allegations. If you and I are working in a gang-infested area and we’re constantly locking people up for narcotics and guns and confiscating money, their way to get back at you is to complain. If you don’t have a process in place where you have to identify yourself and actively participate in allegations you’re making against an officer, you could just speed-dial complaint after complaint to IPRA. You could complain nonstop.”

As for the rule giving officers 24 hours before they have to give a statement about a shooting, Angelo said it’s not unusual. He noted the federal government has a 72-hour time-out for officers involved in shootings. Other big-city police departments have a 48-hour waiting period.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-police-accountability-task-force-met-20160414-story.html

LMAO - are you really holding up the CHICAGO police union as an ideal!

That would be the police department that has a whole archive on their TORTURE abuses at the University of Chicago, not to mention corruption and shooting scandals or federal consent issues.

Frankly - if the the Chicago police union wants it - that’s a pretty good indicator it’s in the public’s WORST interest.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/10000-files-on-chicago-police-torture-decades-now-online/504233/

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They don't necessarily have a "right" to know the accusers, but they do have a right to due process. The officer has to at least be able to recognize the allegations. This is nigh impossible with an anonymous complaint.

The complainant need not be the victim.

But why before the interrogation? If the investigator finds the complaint to be credible it's not like he can just automatically fire the officer. He would *then* initiate a job action against the officer where he would have to present the issue and the officer could mount a response (probably with the assistance of a representative provided by the union).

If you want to spend money chasing down anonymous allegations, spending thousands of dollars and thousands of hours, money that can easily be spent on better things, for information that given an officer's right to due process (and justice) is unlikely to be of any value, go ahead and waste the money and cripple the police.

Go to any police-involved shooting in almost any city in America. You will be amazed at the number of eyewitnesses who will come forward to claim they saw the whole thing and they will give a completely different description of events.

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I wonder what the legal status of counterfeiting the friends and family cards would be. The example shown has the seal of the police department, which isn't trade marked or anything, and the card itself is issued by the union, not the department itself. Even in case of pba cards, which has a private, trademarked logo, since there isn't any legal use, such as a product being sold, I wonder if there is still protections? Though I guess it's legal for the PBA to negotiate discounts for card holders and the like, similar to the AARP, which would be a legitimate use. Still, cranking out a bunch of different fake cards for different municipalities seems like an easy way to make money with positive social externality.

They are signed by the cop giving it to you. Forgery?

Forgery is typically defined to be signing a name on some instrument of value, like a check, debt instrument or ID card and then using that instrument to try to get that value. Just signing someone else's name on a document, by itself, is not forgery. Unless these PBA cards have the value of getting you out of a ticket, which the police publicly claim they do not, then that's likely not a viable charge.

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I'm surprised these cards aren't for sale in every novelty shop and 7-11 in NYC, signature responsibility of the buyer. And how would I sign? M Mouse? D Thrump? James Hoffa? John Smith might be safer.

Because the reality is they are almost worthless.

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Equality under the law also requires that privileges and immunities extend to all citizens equally.

Speculatively, how would one go about bringing a case against this practice to court? Who would have standing to sue?

I'm thinking about the 'get out of jail free' cards, here. Obviously victims of police violence could file suit against the interrogation procedures and so forth.

Police officers can legally exercise considerable discretion in determining when to make an arrest or issue a citation. While I agree they often abuse this discretion, I'm at a loss on how to ensure equal treatment of similars. One would have to analyze dashcam video of every stop (or a large random sample) and make a subjective determination about factors influencing the decisions. And the act of observing can change behavior. They can flash the courtesy badge out of camera, and the cop can respond without verbally acknowledging it.

One could outlaw the practice and use sting operations. Even make the attempt a bribery charge for the driver. Not sure those can pass constitutional muster.

Removing discretion from speeding tickets is plausible, but other things not so much.

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On the other hand, without the police union privileges transparently laid out in black and white for all to see, similar outcomes in prosecutions of police officers would likely result via prosecutorial discretion which is completely opaque. "The Rule of Law" is a foreign concept in the USA given the arbitrary and freqently politally motivated decisions on which laws to enforce and which cases to prosecute, "ham sandwich" grand juries that rarely if ever deny an indictment, and then the plethora of laws with severe penalties that enable the government to coerce plea deals and a very small percentage of cases ever actually going to trial. And don't get me started on our Supreme Court and its embrace of a "living constitution" that enables it to produce whatever politically expedient outcome a handful of justices prefer. Or or our common law tort system that fosters forum shopping and enables juries to hand down outrageous verdicts and punishments. Or our local zoning systems which are little more than variance vending machines. No, "the rule of law" is an ideal that should shame us all.

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Here's another example, from today's news: a former IRS officer was indicted for using his old, expired IRS ID to try to get out of traffic tickets. Note that he's NOT being charged for using his ID to get out of tickets, but for using an expired ID as if it were a valid ID and giving the officers the impression that he was a federal employee deserving indulgence:

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2018/01/ex-irs_employee_flashed_old_id_badge_in_traffic_st.html

I suspect the badge was for a job that required him to drive around a lot and make a lot of onsite visits. If he was on Federal business he might actually be immune from certain local laws (I'm thinking parking violations, for example). Even if he was still active the purpose of the badge is not to just flout traffic laws for personal enjoyment.

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Thank you, Alex, for pointing out the outrageous privileges - some lawful, some not - police officers have accumulated over the years.

As a resident of New York City, I would like to suggest three topics for additional blogs in your series:

1. The excessive retirement benefits, with NYC police officers retiring after 20 years of service, a tenure so short that it would put every socialist country to shame.
2. The consistent attitude that police offers are above the regular laws and rules that apply to every citizen, like their habit of parking their personal cars on side walks and in bus lanes.
3. The complete lack of any physical fitness requirements for their jobs.

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Good post, and although several commenters are trying to push back on the idea that these provisions in police union contracts give officers more rights than ordinary citizens, their points seem to me (unpersuasive). To take them in order:

1) The Sixth Amendment gives all citizens the right to confront their accusers--at trial, yes, but certainly not in the investigation/interrogation phase. Police have no obligation to tell citizen-interviewees the identity of the complainant, and in fact police interrogators are at liberty to exaggerate (or just lie about) the evidence against the interviewee if doing so will (in their judgment) help to elicit a confession.

2) The Fifth Amendment gives all citizens the right to remain silent--yes, if the citizen has the presence of mind and persistence to invoke that right in an interrogation room. And that doesn't count stressful "nonarrest" situations like an impromptu police visit to one's home in which police are under no obligation to inform the citizen of the right to remain silent, and the citizen must think quickly or lose it. A far cry from the provisions here, in which the officer knows in advance the timing and parameters of the interrogation.

3) These provisions apply only to administrative investigations as opposed to criminal ones--even if true, still a tremendous extra privilege when compared to the private sector, especially as regards the "right to remain silent." In the real world, if the boss asks about (say) your latest expense reports and you invoke the right to remain silent, you will probably be given the chance to exercise that right on your own dime.

4) And even in criminal investigations, officers seem to be treated much more genteelly than would ordinary citizens, which goes beyond a simple "it's not fair" point to a serious concern about the validity of officer acquittals. A recent instance was Officer Betty Shelby in Oklahoma, acquitted of killing an unarmed man. Perhaps that was the right result, but it would sit better if she hadn't been cautioned by her sergeant, at the scene of the shooting, not to talk to anyone but her lawyer (something her sergeant would not conceivably have said to any non-officer) and then allowed to see the video before making any statement of her own.

So, yes, the rules are rather different for interrogating officers than citizens, and wherever this ranks on the scale of social problems, Alex is right to point it out.

+1

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Only tangentially related, but this made me wonder if Black Lives Matters might find common cause with the FBI secret society folks.

Both have the same basic story (corruption in law enforcement) but with very different bases. Of course it is possible for one to be true and the other false, but as we know, narratives hold coalitions together much more than facts.

Sadly, whenever I've had a similar conversation with BLM activists, they prefer to focus on the black/racist argument against police to make their claims race-specific and don't want to acknowledge nor discuss that we have a problem with police shootings or corruption in general and that the issues blacks have with the police are a subset of a larger police training/supervision/corruption problem.

'to make their claims race-specific

You mean that calling the movement 'Black Lives Matter' was not enough of a hint?

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"By knowing what the interrogators know, the suspect can craft a story that fits the known facts–and the time privilege gives them the opportunity to do so."

But the accusers have relatively unlimited time to craft their stories.

There's no question that these CBAs slant heavily in favor of officers, but they're not outside the realm of due process. Sure, they can craft stories, but they are still subject to perjury charges. The accused is far more at risk of punishment for false statements than the accusers.

As said above, perpetrators get similar treatment if they are represented by counsel. I do oppose some of these cushy protections, but on the whole they're not unreasonable. Officers face not only dismissal but potential section 1983 actions, and their testimony in a misconduct investigation is admissible evidence to those civil actions.

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I am old enough to remember when small town policeman routinely walked out of coffee shops without paying for coffee, breakfast or lunch. Some owners may have consented however if you didn't, there was no practical recourse. Other merchants were asked for the "police discount" and, in fairness, other public employees expected a discount which seems quite odd looking back. Power to those who have power?

In NJ Quickchecks offer free coffee as a courtesy to uniformed officers. A few years ago an officer walked in, got some coffees and a bag of breakfast sandwiches and walked out without paying. He was charged with petty theft, convicted and had a fine to pay (which his coworkers paid for him). Nonetheless the conviction automatically cost him his job.

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These special protections for police officers largely relate to their employment as police officers - their job require elements of assault, battery and kidnapping by the legal definition applied to the public, so often it is a question of scope of employment. These protections are not out of proportion (compared to other public entity employee protections or public company employee protections for that matter), especially when considering the heightened incentive for false claims against officers. Interrogations in the private sector of employees are extraordinarily formalized and sensitive matters because employers face numerous litigation and other regulatory risks in such a circumstance. Tenured professors are an easy example - willing to bet the success rate of sexual assault claims processed by University Title IX coordinators against professors is low. The same litigation and reputation risks largely do not exist for the employers of police officers - the state is largely immune to the consequences of its actions, a fact not lost on people complaining about police officers.

Put differently, you all are advocating for reducing police officer's rights vis a vis their employers compared to the average person working in the government or at a large public company (assuming the argument is that police officers should be treated like every other person accused of a crime). I'm fully aware that is not the baseline people are applying, but at least consider whether it is the right one.

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Police can legally drink at work in some cities. It is in their contract. The linked article is about the Chicago suburbs, but I remember reading about some bigger cities having similar terms in their contracts. https://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/Many-Suburban-Cops-Allowed-To-Work-Half-Drunk-191296021.html

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"…beyond being an affront to the ideal of the rule of law in the abstract, it seems plausible that these “get out of jail free” cards help to reinforce the sort of us-against-them mentality that alienates so many communities from their police forces. Police departments that want to demonstrate they’re serious about the principle of equality under the law shouldn’t be debating how many of these cards an average cop gets to hand out; they should be scrapping them entirely."

Any officer who uses these cards is unfit to be a police officer.

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One wonders if these rights and privileges could be challenged as a violation of "no titles of nobility" sections of the Constitution, especially Article I, section 9.

Cops are basically granted extra "noble" rights under such union contracts.

The fact that there is no market for these items, no black market, no secondary market of any type, gives you an idea of how the market values these items and how effective they are.

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Side note:
Police in Detroit. It responding to calls to businesses that don’t pay a monthly fee to be priority 1.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2018/01/23/detroit-green-light/109524794/

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