FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cops and Labor Unions

by DAVID MACARAY

“If anyone has been offended, I’m sorry for that.”

—LA Chief of Police Darryl F. Gates

(in response to being criticized for suggesting that more blacks than whites die from police chokeholds is because their carotid arteries “do not open as fast as normal people.”  LA Times, May 11, 1982.)

The Henry Louis Gates dust-up with the Cambridge police department reminded me that everyone has an anecdote or two involving the police—either how the cops rousted, annoyed, or otherwise disrespected them, or, conversely, how they helped or forgave them.

My own experiences are mixed.  While I object to the way cops routinely treat the homeless and underclass—and, as a former union rep, can’t forget the treasonous role law enforcement played in organized labor’s struggle, serving as management goon squads and strike-breakers—I also realize the police reflect the values of society at large.

And to the extent that we’re a race of shameless snobs and celebrity hounds, we can expect cops to bully the weakest and least prepossessing among us, and gush over the richest and most glamorous.  Cops are no different than the rest of us.  Except they carry a badge and a gun and have the authority to detain, imprison, or kill us, which, unfortunately, makes all the difference in the world.

I’ve known my share of police.  There was a saloon near the union hall which cops regularly patronized, and I had a friend who was an officer with the LA County Sheriff’s Department, who delighted in educating naïve little me on “real life” police practices.  While none of his stories could be described as “shocking,” it was a bit unsettling to hear them presented as standard procedure.

For instance, he said that cops make a practice of “tuning up” anyone who tries to run away from them.  “When we tell you to stop,” he said, “you’d better stop.  If you make us chase you, you’re going to pay for it.”  When I reminded him that it was illegal for cops to beat up their prisoners, he just rolled his eyes.

He also told me that when they spot a car on the road at 2:30 a.m. with black men in it, they will automatically pull it over, using some phony reason, such as an improper lane change or faulty tail light, as an excuse.

Why would you stop a car with black guys in it when there’s no violation?  “Because there are black guys in it,” he deadpanned.  He was neither apologetic nor embarrassed at admitting to racial profiling because he honestly believed stopping a car full of black men at 2:30 a.m. is what any conscientious police officer would do.

Surprisingly, when you talk to police about their union you find that most of them (unlike industrial union members) have a fairly high opinion of it.  Part of that is because cops don’t trust anyone except other cops, and they realize that, imperfect and “political” as their union may be, it’s nonetheless composed of nothing but cops, former cops, and cop lawyers.

That “us vs. them” dynamic is  a breeding ground for fanaticism and self-deception.  Even though, statistically, 98 per cent of the population are law-abiding citizens, cops tend to approach most of us as if we belong to that 2 per cent.

There are exceptions.  During a strike some years ago, several union members were involved in minor brushes with the police—most having to do with disturbances on the picket lines during the midnight shift.  Based on reports I received from witnesses, the police were astonishingly reserved in their responses.

For example, when alcohol was involved, the cops did little more than caution the drinkers not to make total asses of themselves; and when there was a skirmish or physical confrontation, they managed to settle it without arresting anyone.  People went out of their way to praise the officers’ coolness.

Granted, these union incidents occurred in conservative Orange County.  The cops were white and none of the picketers was African-American.  Had the drinkers and fighters on the picket line been young black men, things might have played out differently.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright (“Americana,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at Dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail