Remember the cop who pepper sprayed the students at UC-Davis? He’s still on the job.
Why? Because the job protections negotiated by California’s public service unions—that would be the same unions, negotiating power, and job protections the pepper-sprayed occupiers were championing—have made it nearly impossible to fire public employees.
Once placed on administrative leave, he was subject to an internal affairs investigation. The law requires that its findings alone can bear on personnel actions, never mind all the useful evidence collected by the independent consultants, or the analysis performed by the panel of esteemed statesmen. The internal affairs investigation into Lt. Pike’s actions were conducted by Ed McErlain, a former police officer and “senior investigator for Norman A. Traub Associates, which specializes in employment investigations;” and Deborah Maddux Allison, “a partner with the Van Dermyden Allison Law Corporation, who specializes in employment law and workplace investigations.” They were advised by Charles “Sid” Heal, another retired police officer.
Their method and findings are secret.
The public never gets to read them.
Their report was submitted to something called the Sufficiency Review Board, which is supposed to certify its quality and completeness in another secret process. And the secret internal affairs investigation won’t necessarily lead to anything beyond the report itself . . .
Basically, California law dictates that all UC Davis can say about its most controversial officer is “the employment status of the officer, e.g., current employment status and rank.”
For now, he still works there.
Thanks to the job protections California affords to this class of public employees, the thorough, independent review available to the public and the press has no bearing on the fate of the man who inspired it; whereas whether or not he’ll continue to patrol among the very students he needlessly sprayed is determined by a secretive process wholly lacking in transparency, and accountable only to the administrative apparatus whose very failure helped cause the pepper spraying.
California, like many states, has a “Police Officer Bill of Rights,” a set of rights negotiated by the police union afforded to cops under investigation that goes well above and beyond the rights of regular citizens. In some states, if fellow officers don’t follow strict procedures while investigating another cop, the cop under investigation gets off. If you’re cynical, you might say these “Bills of Rights” are how-to guides for cops who want to help a fellow officer get away with misconduct.
I remember at one point early on in the Occupy protests, one faction of the Occupiers in New York was protesting proposed cuts in police pensions, even as the police union in New York was suing the occupiers. And as cops in other parts of the country were beating them. I guess on some level, an some odd sort of principle at work protesting on behalf of the people who are beating you.
My general take on the Occupy movement is the same view I had last fall. I think they were right in most of their diagnoses. Unfortunately, most of their proposed solutions will only exacerbate the same problems they were protesting. As in this case. Strengthen the bargaining power of public service unions, and it’s just going to get more difficult to fire bad cops. (And teachers. And bureaucrats.)
And it’s already pretty damned difficult.