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bad cop--no highball
August 27, 2005 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Cops who break the law. Should a police chief be able to fire a cop for breaking the law? Not according to the cop's union.
posted by leftcoastbob (35 comments total)

 
Cops break laws all the time. I once saw a squad car turn its siren on to run a red light, at a busy pedestrian crossing. The reason? The cop in the passenger seat had a hot pizza in his lap.

It doesn't surprise me that the folks charged with upholding and enforcing the law often break the very same laws they've sworn to uphold.
posted by wakko at 8:08 AM on August 27, 2005


There's a big difference between off duty drunken driving (which shouldn't be allowed) and cops going through red lights on duty, which is allowed for obvious reasons (no one's going to be the asshole cop to give another a ticket). Running red lights in a squad car is a typical part of being a cop, while drunken driving isn't (I hope).

wakko: How do you know the cop had hot pizza in his lap? How do you know it was hot? How do you know this was the only reason the light was red? It's a cute story, but it doesn't hold up.
posted by null terminated at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2005


*only reason they ran the red light.

bleh
posted by null terminated at 8:22 AM on August 27, 2005


The ruling found Chief Derrick Foxworth's firing of Mitchell to be more severe than that given to other officers who had been cited for driving drunk. It demonstrates how difficult it is for a police chief to terminate an officer.

No it doesn't. It demonstrates how difficult it is for a police chief to apply arbitrary and discriminatory standards when to comes to terminating an officer. Cops should have the same employee rights as anyone else. That employers, especially when the employer is the government, should be required by law to treat all of their employees equally seems sort of obvious to me.

If the cop in question was subject to an arbitrary and unequal standard, which it seems he was, then it seems the union was right to defend him.

That being said, ANY and EVERY cop arrested for DUI should be immediately fired.
posted by three blind mice at 8:24 AM on August 27, 2005


Bob, would you lose your job if you were charged with drunk driving? Besides the fact that the article claims that dismissal would be disproportionate to the way others were punished for similar offenses, the officer committed the offense while off duty. Furthermore, I would say the nature of the offense doesn't necessarily call into question the ability of the officer to perform his job.

For a person who makes as much as a police officer, a 5 month suspension without pay is probably a very steep punishment. Imagine, on top of all the regular punishments, you were also to lose 20-40 thousand dollars.
posted by Doug at 8:34 AM on August 27, 2005


What Three Blind Mice said..

further quote "While Chief Foxworth issued a 'clean slate' letter with regard to his position on discipline, that concept is unacceptable in this case," Tamoush ruled Aug. 10. "The chief cannot arbitrarily and capriciously wipe out the history of disciplinary treatment of employees."

And, it wasn't a union ruling, it was an arbitrator who was addressing the concept of discrimination...

a good ruling.....

The fpp was a bit misleading...
posted by HuronBob at 8:35 AM on August 27, 2005


3bm: You're right in that arbitrary standard shouldn't be applied to any employee. The thing is, Foxworth is a new police chief and wants to clean up the way the Portland Police Bureau has been run in the past by making it a more professional agency.

I don't buy the "but this is the way it's always been" argument because agencies, like society as a whole, should evolve. He sent a memo explaining what actions would no longer be tolerated in police officers so this termination (imho) was in no way arbitrary.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:35 AM on August 27, 2005


And sorry--of course it wasn't a union ruling. Unions don't get to rule on this sort of thing. The termination was appealed by the officer's union and brought to arbitration.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:37 AM on August 27, 2005


By the logic of this ruling if a police department has history of tolerating DUIs there is nothing the chief can do to change policy. The chief circulated a letter notifying the department of the policy change but that apparently wasn't enough. So how can the department be reformed?
posted by rdr at 8:38 AM on August 27, 2005


I have to say I'm not sure on my position on this one. If he had been driving a squad car drunk, then I'd say yes, fire him immediately.
But cops should also have the right to enjoy a civilian life, and like most civilians, not have to worry about being fired if they should commit a crime.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:40 AM on August 27, 2005


On the other hand, one probably shouldn't be allowed to be a cop if one is on probation.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:41 AM on August 27, 2005


No it doesn't. It demonstrates how difficult it is for a police chief to apply arbitrary and discriminatory standards when to comes to terminating an officer. Cops should have the same employee rights as anyone else. That employers, especially when the employer is the government, should be required by law to treat all of their employees equally seems sort of obvious to me.

They had sent out a memo saying this was the new policy. That's hardly arbitrary or discriminatory. Every employee was equally subject to the new policy. Cops convicted of DUI before the memo went out were all equally subject to the previous policy.

Does this mean police should never be allowed to change their rules or policies since people used to be subject to an old policy?
posted by duck at 8:43 AM on August 27, 2005


And you must bear in mind that a police officer in Oregon is supposed to be held to a higher standard than the citizens they protect. If you work at a hardware store, you probably won't be terminated if you are convicted of domestic violence; if you work as a police officer, you most likely will be.

Police departments also have rules on outside employment. If you want to take a part time job, you must have the permission of the chief. He will probably allow you work security at a baseball game but will most likely not allow you to bartend at the local tavern.

It's a different world.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:49 AM on August 27, 2005


If your job is to drive around, and you get a DUI 'off duty', in your own vehicle, you will probably not have the driving job anymore.
I don't know if it's a fireable offence, but the cop should loose his patroll, and get transfered to a desk job he can take the bus to.
posted by Balisong at 8:50 AM on August 27, 2005


You have a chief (management) firing a guy. You have a union trying to protect a union member. Both sides see a need for impartial arbitration. The arbitrator made a ruling. Now how you feel about drinking, what the copyh did or how the chief acted (for or against either one) is beside the point. The case was settled by someone who is presumably in a position to rule in a fair and impartial way.

Now if either side is unhappy about the situation involved, the town, the dept, the union, etc can lelgilsate guidlines for future conduct, conduct that will apply to all members of the force in the same manner.
posted by Postroad at 9:12 AM on August 27, 2005


Doug writes "Bob, would you lose your job if you were charged with drunk driving?"

If your job is to uphold the law and you break that same law, then you should lose your job. That much seems obvious.
posted by clevershark at 9:22 AM on August 27, 2005


They had sent out a memo saying this was the new policy. That's hardly arbitrary or discriminatory. Every employee was equally subject to the new policy. Cops convicted of DUI before the memo went out were all equally subject to the previous policy. Does this mean police should never be allowed to change their rules or policies since people used to be subject to an old policy?

Good point duck. But the police chief is not the employer. Just because a new sheriff rides into town, he shouldn't be allowed to change longstanding rules concerning employment. Especially ones that impact the private lives of employees. Imagine if you walked into work and your new boss, handed you a plastic bottle and told you "New rules in this department. Mandatory drug tests for everyone. You did get the memo I sent out, didn't you?"

Just because the new rules are not applied on a discriminatory or arbitrary basis, doesn't mean that the rules themselves are arbitrary or that their effect on employees is discriminatory.
posted by three blind mice at 9:49 AM on August 27, 2005


...a police officer in Oregon is supposed to be held to a higher standard than the citizens they protect.
I don't mean to be inflammatory, but is this really true? Is it an ideal or somehow an explicit pre-req?

If your job is to uphold the law and you break that same law, then you should lose your job.
Isn't the cop's job upholding all laws? Where are we going to find recruits who don't break any laws?
posted by klarck at 10:02 AM on August 27, 2005


Good point, 3bm. About 10 years ago a police officer in a city near where I live was arrested and convicted of a sex crime. Immediately upon his arrest, he went out on stress disability because due to the stress of the investigation, he was unable to do his job properly.

An arbitration panel eventually sided with the cop because the rules on stress disability didn't deal with the reason for the stress; they merely said that if an officer is unable to perform his job due to stress, he is entitled to stress pay.

There was a big uproar about the whole thing, but the arbitration panel was technically correct in following the the letter of the rules.

(The stress leave rules were eventually changed.)
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:07 AM on August 27, 2005


Yes, klarck, a police officer is supposed to be held to a higher standard and yes, it is a pre-req.

I just work dispatch so I am not even a sworn officer and I, too, am held to a higher standard. We even have to sign papers to the effect that we understand that before we accept employment.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:10 AM on August 27, 2005


clevershark: So a police officer should be fired for speeding? Littering? Having hedges that are too tall?
posted by Doug at 10:16 AM on August 27, 2005


Oregon has a Department of Public Safety and Standards which sets rules for employees under their auspices. I believe that any felony conviction is grounds for automatic termination as is any drug conviction. (In Oregon, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor but still grounds for termination.)

In addition, the individual agencies have rules for which you may be terminated. I doubt that most acts involving hedges fall under those rules.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:24 AM on August 27, 2005


Public scrutiny, demotation, making him do a crappy job like paper work for a few months and generally be made an example of to the rest of the force would all be reasonable punishments. Being fired is extreme, and its a good thing they are unionized.
posted by nickerbocker at 10:39 AM on August 27, 2005


>>So a police officer should be fired for speeding? Littering? Having hedges that are too tall?

reductio ad absurdum doesn't really fly here.

For an officer to be trusted with powers of arrest/summary conviction they must be of good character and the things you're listing wouldn't be considered egregious breaches of community standards anywhere I know of. Wrong maybe, but it won't make you a "bad person" in the eyes of a reasonable person.

I think the reasonable expectation for law enforcement officers is that their conduct will fall within the norms of the community they are policing. Certain conduct will obviously qualify you as a "bad person" in the eyes of your community and consequently erode both community respect for the officer and the authority of the department he/she represents.

DWI is not the same as littering. You know it, I know it and so does his boss. If he stays a cop, I bet he'll be driving a desk for a long time.

( No I'm not a law enforcement officer. My brother is.)

/finished butting in
posted by login at 11:10 AM on August 27, 2005


Perhaps there should be a "three strikes" type procedure with escalating penalties leading to eventual firing on grounds of unfitness.
posted by Cranberry at 11:12 AM on August 27, 2005


First, cops aren't charged with enforcing "all laws". I would imagine that which laws they're supposed to enforce varies by jurisdiction, but pretty much everywhere they would be charged with enforcing criminal laws and traffic rules. DUI is a criminal offence, and not only that, but a criminal offence of the most serious variety (I'm not referring to any official classification here, but to our general moral sense that things like murder and rape are more serious than things like littering and speeding (speeding is not even technically a crime, at least in Canada). DUI is in the top tier of "bad" crimes.

If a mobster, a gang leader, a serial rapist showed up and said they wanted to be a cop surely we'd all say "no way" not "Well what he does in his private life...". The same goes for DUI. The reason for this is that crimes are never, by definition, "private". What makes them (in theory at least) criminal as opposed to civil offences is that they are offences against the whole society.

Similarly, if a person becomes a mobster, gang leader, serial rapist or drunk driver after they are already a cop, they should not be allowed to continue being a cop.

As to the chief not being the employer, the chief acts as an agent of the employer. Surely you don't expect Ralph Alvarez himself to set customer service policies at every McDonalds and personally approve the firing of ever snotty teenager.

Hopefully the cop lost his license anyway and at least won't be driving anymore.
posted by duck at 11:49 AM on August 27, 2005


its a good thing they are unionized.

Thank God that there are unions to fight for the rights of fine, upstanding hypocrites like Officer Mitchell!
posted by Kwantsar at 12:11 PM on August 27, 2005


"But cops should also have the right to enjoy a civilian life, and like most civilians, not have to worry about being fired if they should commit a crime."

"Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints"

If cops are criminals -- if there's really no difference besides the badge, uniform, and gun-carrying privileges -- then the cops are just an occupying army or very powerful gang (or both) that we have no reason to obey other than fear of brute force. Don't forget that there's really no such thing as "off duty" for an able-bodied not-in-the-hospital cop, it's more like "standby" -- so DUI cops should be spanked harder than the rest of us. S/he would certainly know better, and greater "authority" should bring greater responsibility (which is why one 9 year old who feels up another doesn't get called a "child molester").

So are the cops playing "law and order" because they're good cops, or because they don't like the competition from other crooks? If the latter, what in the fuck are we paying them out of our taxes for?

Cops are no better than, and have no more rights than, the rest of us, on duty or off. Get off your knees, people; it's embarrassing.
posted by davy at 12:28 PM on August 27, 2005


Know why so many Irishmen were cops? Italians had all the good violent jobs.

Cops are fundamentally violent thugs who managed not to become criminals. Police forces are like social welfare. Society pays violent men to avoid violence most of the day, but lets them take it out on criminals and protestors.

My point is that police forces should be allowed more serious punishments than civilian organizations simply because these are violent people who need to be controlled. Don't knock it, it works.

Sad part is, you probably think I'm joking.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:35 PM on August 27, 2005


jeffburdges: We actually think you're trolling.

Or have never personally known any police officers.
posted by Doug at 2:29 PM on August 27, 2005


I've known a few police officers. Mostly assholes.
posted by davy at 4:08 PM on August 27, 2005


Sad part is, you probably think I'm joking.

Nope. That's not the sad part.
posted by dreamsign at 5:05 PM on August 27, 2005


wakko: How do you know the cop had hot pizza in his lap?

Er, because as they were driving past me, I looked into the squad car and saw it on his lap?

Next time I'm nearly run down by a pair of assholes with flashing lights on top of their car, I'll be sure to better document it for you.
posted by wakko at 6:22 PM on August 27, 2005


davy, They are not all assholes, but they are mostly the sort of people who are "wired" for occasional violence. This does not mean they have other criminal tendencies, but there is a still a significant overlap with people who'd end up being thugs without the force.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:40 AM on August 28, 2005


There are good cops, bad cops, and mediocre cops. Mean cops and kind cops. omg--maybe they're just like real people!
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:50 AM on August 28, 2005


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