Perks pose risk to all of us

Donut police David Childers PhotographyFromFlickrApril 22, 2013

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — The horrific Boston bombings have led to irrational calls for more security cameras and more police officers, with some Democrats absurdly using this tragedy to argue for halting the slight sequester-mandated cuts in federal spending growth.

Never mind that police spending primarily is a local function. The bigger questions that Americans have rarely asked, especially following the 9/11 attacks: Do we really want the government to hire new armies of police officers? Do we really want to pay the price for this?

Knowing my views on the growing public-pension crisis, most readers probably think the “price” I’m worried about is the nation’s multitrillion-dollar unfunded pension liability, driven largely by the “3 percent at 50” retirement deals that cost taxpayers millions of dollars for each “first responder” who retires at or shortly after age 50, with 30 years of service.

More police

That problem clearly is huge — the result in part of Americans’ embrace of the “more police” logic after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. But that’s not the main source of my concern. My larger worry involves our safety and civil liberties, given that police officers, and other groups of public employees, arguably have become a protected class that does not have to follow the same rules as the average citizen.

A few years ago, the Orange County Register reported on California’s special license-plate program that puts the addresses and license information of many public employees and their family members in a restricted database, shielding them from getting tickets when they drive on toll roads without paying the toll. That’s somewhat infuriating.

Now, an investigation by the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Florida found that “professional courtesy” — i.e., police allowing other police officers to speed, drive drunk and violate every manner of traffic law — also has dangerous consequences for the public.

The newspaper series, awarded a Pulitzer Prize the same week as the Boston bombings, details the tragedies of essentially giving one group free rein to drive in any manner its members choose. In one incident documented by the newspaper, an officer — speeding at up to 87 mph to where another officer had pulled over a driver for having a broken taillight — broadsided a car driven by a 21-year-old woman, seriously injuring her and killing her 14-year-old sister, who was thrown from the wreck.

The newspaper found police speeding routinely in excess of 120 mph — not on emergency calls, but simply to get to work or for the fun of it. We’ve all seen it on the highways and there are news stories of tragic accidents across the nation, where civilians die in collisions with police. Off-duty officers sometimes drive in the same dangerous manner knowing that fellow officers will give them a pass at the sight of a badge.

Here’s the Sun Sentinel, which reported that 21 Floridians have been killed or maimed by speeding cops since 2004: “Speeding cops are often spared severe punishment in the criminal justice system. Cops found at fault for fatal wrecks caused by speeding have faced consequences ranging from no criminal charges to a maximum of 60 days in jail. Inside many police agencies, speeding isn’t taken seriously until it results in tragedy. Even then, some cops are disciplined but stay on the job — and the road. The dead include seven police officers.”

On that last point: Police unions often point to the dangers of the job. But about half of on-the-job police fatalities involve traffic accidents, some no doubt the result of reckless driving by the officers themselves.

Recently, the Sacramento County sheriff was pulled over for a speeding ticket and made a big deal of telling the public that the police do get tickets. Maybe on occasion, but the “professional courtesy” problem is real, and it applies not just to speeding but to every sort of police misbehavior.


Meanwhile, in California, in particular, police unions have exempted disciplinary records of misbehaving cops from the state’s public records law so the public never learns about the bad actors in police agencies.

Police unions continue to push for special privileges — not just higher benefit levels, expanded disability pay and other perks, but exemptions from every manner of oversight. Given the power of the police unions among both union-friendly Democrats and law-and-order Republicans, there is no powerful civil-liberties lobby to stand against this endless drive for more “protections” for those who patrol our communities.

The nation’s crime rates are at 40-year lows. Studies have found little connection between more police officers and crime rates. We cannot create a society that is entirely safe — especially from attacks on “soft” targets such as large public gatherings.

And we should not blindly embrace the call for more police without first reading the Sun Sentinel series, detailing a potential downside.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Write to him at: [email protected]


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  1. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 22 April, 2013, 07:51

    In this terrible situation, let’s be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government. It is very fashionable in America to criticize government, to belittle public employees, talk about their pensions, talk about what people think is their excessive health care. Here we saw government perform very well.

    Reply this comment
  2. The Africanized Swarm of Ted Steele System
    The Africanized Swarm of Ted Steele System 22 April, 2013, 08:09

    Well said Steve— but very soon on this thread you will actually see doomer critique of the gov in this matter. The whine is the only dance step they know. One thinks that one might be more content in say, Somalia, where there is less gov intrusion and taxes.

    The Ted, Managing Poster

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  3. fish
    fish 22 April, 2013, 08:13

    Somalia, where there is less gov intrusion and taxes.


    Okay now that’s out of the way…..“The Ted”…. Really?!?

    Reply this comment
  4. Rules for Radicals
    Rules for Radicals 22 April, 2013, 08:28

    Make no mistake: This sort of stress on Americans is not only intentional – it is strategic. Remember, these people are revolutionaries (that is, engaged in “bringing about a major or fundamental change,” as Merriam-Webster puts it) and utterly committed to replacing one societal structure – America’s constitutional, limited-government, free-enterprise system – with another – a socialist, wealth-redistributionist system run by an all-powerful government.

    Such a radical change cannot be accomplished while Americans are calm, happy, content and grateful for their blessings. Citizens must be unhappy and stressed out. Indeed, widespread popular discontent has always been the required fuel for leftist transformation.

    Just reading a few pages into Saul Alinsky’s notorious “Rules for Radicals,” one encounters repeated confirmation that the very key to radical “change” is keeping the populace angry, encouraging their grievances, stoking their resentments and making sure they are continually upset. That is the primary psychological dynamic of “community organizing” – and America today is led by community-organizer-in-chief Barack Obama, a long-time master practitioner and instructor in Alinsky’s neo-Marxist agitation methods.

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  5. joe piazza
    joe piazza 22 April, 2013, 09:58

    can we Californians really be this disconnected from the reality of a fasciest government agenda….we cant print money fast enough to support an unnecessary military state..we’re so far in debt; wake up..

    Reply this comment
  6. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 22 April, 2013, 12:58

    Ah yes, one of my favorite subjects. see the retired state cop who lines up his toys in the street, boat, motorhome, jetskis on Thursday morning(readying for the next week)…feel all warm any fuzzy inside knowing he probably contributed next to nothing for his cushy “senior” years….yup, donuts, free coffee have turned into more adult playthings.. always wondered if his offspring are entitled gov t workers, or just entitled aholes…perhaps not, but probably yes, both entitled gov t worker and an asshole. Of course, brain dead aholes elected people who made this possible….I have learned to laugh at the absurdity of it.

    Reply this comment
    NTHEOC 22 April, 2013, 13:13

    As thousands upon thousands of people line the streets cheering on the first responders(esp PD) and a grateful nation again thankful to have such wonderful police and firefighters! Steven Greenhut, being the low life loser he is takes the opportunity to attack public safety! I’m sure he was pulling out what hair he has left while watching the hero first responders being cheered on!!!! There really is no difference between Steven Greenhut and the Terrorists themselves, except he doesn’t act out the violence but rather hides behind his computer typing horrible lies about us!!!

    Reply this comment
  8. Mike
    Mike 22 April, 2013, 14:08

    Having worked as a street cop in California for over 10 years, Greenhut hit the nail on the head. Arresting another cop for DUI, writing him/her or their family members a traffic ticket will pretty much end your career right there. Graveyard shift for the rest of your life, no promotions or special assignments and the union will make certain everyone knows your name.

    Reply this comment
  9. Mike
    Mike 22 April, 2013, 15:01

    Steve Mehlman says: “Here we saw government perform very well.” I had to read what Steve said three times before I was sure of what I was reading. Steve, with all due respect, the government didn’t find the guy hiding in the covered boat. It was the citizen who called it in. If not for the phone call, the government would have never found him since he was hiding outside the government’s search perimeter. But we all know that the government likes good press so they can justify their positions and keep increasing YOUR taxes to support the government.

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  10. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog 22 April, 2013, 15:35

    Steve Mehlman wrote: “Here we saw government perform very well.”

    It’s surprising for me to see liberals write such a thing because liberals often are such important defenders of civil rights. And what we saw in Boston was the full-fledged U.S. police state in action, with thousands of police from at least six different agencies swarming around. I even saw “Military Police” emblazoned on jackets. Why were they there? To hunt down one 19-year-old with a gun and maybe some home-made bombs, a whole huge city was shut down for more than a day.

    Fortunately, we still have old-style liberals defending civil rights, such as Glenn Grenwald:

    And yes, I know some “conservatives” have over-reacted as well, including the always egregious John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

    — John Seiler

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  11. Ted Steele, toilet cleaner
    Ted Steele, toilet cleaner 22 April, 2013, 18:47

    JOHN— LOL– ARE YOU OK? You saw a police state in Boston? Once again your penchant for hyperbole is ignorant and juvenile. If your comment represents your knowledge of even the typical police state of the last 50-100 years, all I can say is that you know little.

    You cite:

    6 agencies
    swarming cops
    an MP jacket

    John? Really? That’s it?

    …just “some home made bombs”? John, honestly, if you are a gun owner, I hope you got a full mental health check little buddy.

    All for one 19 y/o kid?
    Ok John, how would you get him?
    How would you know it’s just one kid?
    How would you know there were no other aspects of a plot unexecuted?

    The gov did a great job here John. When your ilk denies same you lose what little credibility you have. Ever wonder why libertarians usually lose? I guess you don’t.

    The gigantic Ted System.

    Reply this comment
  12. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 22 April, 2013, 18:51

    I spent over 30 years as a police officer in California, during which time I arrested several officers for various criminal offenses. On the other hand, if you know that arresting or citing a fellow officer, physician, attorney, etc., for some low level infraction or even a misdemeanor is not only going to cost him/her whatever fine there might be but also their job or professional license, there are certainly times when human judgement, discretion and even compassion might come into play. Justice is supposed to be blind, not stupid.

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  13. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 22 April, 2013, 18:55

    Good catch, Ted. That’s apparently the newest anti-government meme today: “ALL THIS FOR A 19 YEAR OLD KID! OH MY GOD.”

    If the responsible law enforcement agencies had not taken the firm and aggressive steps they did to protect the citizens of Boston and also capture the clearly heavily armed and very dangerous bombing suspects, who also murdered a police officer in cold blood, that same group would be spending their time writing and wailing about how poorly our government agencies performed their duties.

    When did Anarchist and Patriot become synonyms?

    Reply this comment
  14. Ted Steele, toilet cleaner
    Ted Steele, toilet cleaner 22 April, 2013, 19:22

    Skipper– Your last question– “When did Anarchist and Patriot become synonyms?” — is a good one.

    It is in fact that these two words are synonymous among the far right extreme, and that the increase in militias and so called “patriot” groups has been prolific, that the ultra right is well worth watching closely. I am glad I live in a Country where law enforcement and the civilian authority agrees with me and is doing 110% on the quiet intel required.

    Bravo Boston PD and the FBI– job well done on the bombings. I am sure they are not resting on this victory and are hard at work to thwart a few more of these “stunted” individuals.

    Reply this comment
  15. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 22 April, 2013, 19:24

    Kudos to Ted. As usual, he’s right on target.

    However, hats off to John Seiler for refusing to join the lynch mob who wants to either try an American citizen in Git’mo or hang him from the nearest tree in Watertown.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the Rabid Right can salivate over how sacrosanct the Second Amendment to our Constitution is but completely ignore the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and other laws which protect our citizens from government abuse.

    Reply this comment
  16. fish
    fish 22 April, 2013, 20:31

    Teddy! Congratulations! On the career change…..finally going to earn an honest living.

    Reply this comment
  17. Donkey
    Donkey 22 April, 2013, 21:33

    Skdog wrote: “When did Anarchist and Patriot become synonyms?” When government burecracies became fascist.

    Another good profile of the totalitarian prison industrial complex we Americans are living under Steven, and the unaccountable people that have helped to create it!!

    No one involved in the Doug Zerby murder was charged with a crime; unarmed citizens being murdered by state issued thugs, enough to make Stalin smile. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  18. EJ
    EJ 23 April, 2013, 12:43

    The only thing I can remember while watching the Boston events live at about 2:30 am when the hunt was in full motion was cop hero Ed Davis saying “no doubt these individuals came to this counry to do harm” before he knew what the hell he was really talking about but of course it made for good cowboy tv and perhaps another case to go to war for that damn country that sent these guys to Boston. LOL.

    Reply this comment
  19. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 24 April, 2013, 09:19

    EJ– That’s the only thing you remember?

    Reply this comment
  20. fish
    fish 24 April, 2013, 10:33

    Teddy…what happened to toilet cleaner. Aw….fish have sad face now.

    Thought society going to benefit from Teds honest labor.

    Reply this comment
  21. Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst
    Ted Steele, Nuculer Fizzicyst 24 April, 2013, 10:48

    mmmmmm…..fishlips……this was a wonderful thread…..mmmmmmmmmmmm

    there there—–some attention little buddy? mmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Reply this comment
  22. fish
    fish 24 April, 2013, 14:51


    I think that problem that you have with your finger……I got it too. What do you take for it?

    Reply this comment

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