Ignoring 'public safety' abuse

Steven Greenhut: The Sacramento deputies union has been running full-age ads in the Sacramento Bee warning about the ramifications of cuts in their department budgets. In Stockton, city cops are placing billboards around town warning that people are being murdered because of cutbacks. The correlation between police staffing and crime rates is complex and doesn’t translate into direct numbers (more cops do not necessarily mean less crime). The police unions don’t like to talk about other possible threats to public safety. One revolves around the high pay and benefit levels, which are the driving force for cutbacks at departments. Police unions are depleting public services and mandating a reduction in street cops so that more of their budgets can pay for those 90-percent-plus pensions for retired officers, many of whom retire in their early 50s.

But another problem: The repeated failure of public safety officials to discipline fellow officers who abuse their power and harm the public. The LA Times reports on the latest example, involving the probation department: “The Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review has issued a scathing report on internal investigations in the county Probation Department, finding that at least 31 sworn employees who committed misconduct and abuse will probably escape discipline because investigators took too long to complete their cases. … Of the 31 sworn staff — those who have peace officer status under the law — slated for discipline who will probably go unpunished by the department, [OIR director Mike] Gennaco said 18 had been charged with crimes including cruelty to a child, sex with a minor, prostitution, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting an officer and battery. Of the 18 charged, at least 10 have been convicted, according to Gennaco.”

If the “peace officers” unions were serious about public safety, maybe they would focus on more than just staffing levels.

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