FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Cops and Labor Unions

“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
February 28, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Socialism Question
Vijay Prashad
Witnessing the Hell a Migrant Can Face
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Knives Out
Andrew Levine
Bloomberg: What Is He Good For?
T.J. Coles
The Space Force Becomes a Weapons System, Arms Companies Profit
Henry Giroux
Cult-Like Ignorance is Death: Trump and the Coronavirus
Paul Street
The So-Called Party of the People: From Nevada to South Carolina
Matthew Stevenson
Carolina and Super Tuesday on My Mind
Robert Hunziker
Forever-Chemicals Tap Water
Pete Dolack
No Thinking Please, We’re Red-Baiting
Nick Pemberton
If Bernie Sanders Is Unelectable, Then What The Hell Are The Rest Of You?
Jacob Hornberger
Immunity for Killings by Immigration Police
John Curiel – Jack R. Williams
Analysis of the 2019 Bolivia Election: No Evidence of Irregular Trends or Fraud
Ramzy Baroud
Israel at the Cusp of a Bleak Era
Ron Jacobs
Bloomberg’s Billionaire BS
Farzana Versey
Who Will Douse Delhi’s Flames?
Joseph Natoli
Dispelling the Darkness
Marshall Auerback
Boris Johnson, Not Donald Trump, is the Real Blue-Collar Conservative
Steve Early
VoteVets for Buttigieg:  Who’s Really Keeping Us in the Dark About Campaign Funding?
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Those Meddling Kids …
Arshad Khan
Trump Visits Modi and Delhi Erupts in Anti-Muslim Riots
Karen J. Greenberg
How Democracy Ends
Tom Clifford
Corona and Flu in Beijing: a Report From the Chinese Capital
Scott Tucker
Pete Buttigieg: The Energizer Bunny of Hegemony
Victor Grossman
Breakthroughs Against the Rightwing Menace in Germany
William Hartung
It’s Time to Debate Pentagon Spending
Seth Sandronsky
Struggling for Shelter: Resistance to California’s Housing Crisis Grows 
Daniel Warner
The UN, Homeostasis and China
Eve Ottenberg
Police Torture in Chicago
Kenn Orphan
The Ruling Class Will Stop at Nothing
Sean Reynolds
A Difficult Peace
W. T. Whitney
For the Climate: Protecting the Commons and Fixing Democracy
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Political Offences and Legal Restraints
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad – Jamie Buell
Does This Economy Work for Black Americans?
Tracey L. Rogers
Reflections on “Black Excellence”
Jill Richardson
Stop Calling Harmful Bigotry “Religious Freedom”
Barbara G. Ellis
Don’t Depend on FEMA to Save Us From Global-Warming’s Armageddon
Mike Garrity
Why We Sued Trump’s BLM Over Its Sagebrush-Juniper Burning Project in Montana
Christopher Brauchli
The Modi/Trump Anti-Muslim Alliance
John Kendall Hawkins
Science and the Turf Wars of Consciousness
John Peeler
Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Nicky Reid
Socialism Without Anti-Imperialism: A Different Flavor of Tyranny
Louis Proyect
Spies, Lies and Videotapes
David Yearsley
The Beef with Kobe
Andrew Stewart
How Netflix And “Manning Marable” Killed Malcolm X (The Third Time)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail