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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Police: Entitled Bullies, Specially Protected 'Victims'

William Norman Grigg

The advertised purpose of the Support Your Local Police Committee (or SYLP) is to keep "local" police departments independent of federal control. Will SYLP oppose efforts by the Fraternal Order of Police to define police officers as part of a "special protected" category under federal "hate crime" laws?

Citing the high-profile murders of six police officers in 2014, Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, demands that Congress "expand Federal hate crime laws to protect law enforcement officers and punish those who target these dedicated public servants."

"All these officers died because of the uniforms they were wearing," insists Canterbury. "They were killed because their murderers had one purpose -- to kill a cop. Enough is enough! We demand Congress act."

Several years ago, following the attempted murder of Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the FOP lobbied for federal legislation that would expand the use of the death penalty by "adding the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer at any level of government" as an aggravating factor "when considering a capital charge," points out a press release from the union.

To its credit, the SYLP Committee's literature (some of which I helped write many years ago) describes criminal law as a local, rather than federal, concern. Its statement of principles urges citizens to "Oppose any and all efforts to subsidize, regionalize, or federalize our local police, since any loss of their independence from outside controls will inevitably lead to a loss of our protection and safety as well" (emphasis added).

Will the organization condemn police union's self-serving efforts to expand federal hate crimes statutes, or would doing so contradict the categorical imperative (also mentioned in the group's statement of principles) to make police "proud and secure in their vital profession, and to offer them our support in word and deed wherever possible"?

It should be remembered that the NYPD has already pioneered the use of "hate crimes" statutes to criminalize anti-police sentiments: Last summer, a graffiti artist named Rosella Best was charged with "criminal mischief as a hate crime" for tagging police vehicles and a public school with slogans condemning the department. The relevant statute, significantly, didn't mention occupation as a "protected category." The FOP's proposed federal legislation would do so -- but the police would be the only beneficiaries.

Even with a slight increase in the number of on-duty fatalities last year, law enforcement remains a much safer occupation than many worthier jobs in the productive sector. The violent death of a police officer is somewhat similar to a plane crash: It is an infrequent occurrence that attracts intensive media coverage, thereby distorting public perceptions of risk. Plane crashes are rare; highway fatalities happen every day. A similar comparison could be made between the murder of police officers and police killings of citizens.

Police already constitute a specially protected class. Cops who injure or kill people without cause are protected from individual accountability by the doctrine of "qualified immunity." Thanks to statutes that define resisting arrest (a common law right) as a crime, police are privileged aggressors who can inflict summary punishment, including the death penalty, on victims who refuse to cooperate -- or even on those who readily submit.

A measure being promoted by police unions in the New York legislature would destroy "civilian" oversight of police disciplinary procedures. E.J. McMahon of the Manhattan Institute points out that the bill "would allow unions representing police "? to insist on collective bargaining of disciplinary procedures affecting their members." This bill is intended to codify a provision in the union's proposed contract that would require internal affairs investigators to wait at least 48 hours "before questioning police officers accused of misconduct."

McMahon describes this bill as an effort by unaccountable police unions to usurp local control of police by elected municipal officials. The "L" in SYLP stands for "Local." Will the "Support Your Local Police Committee" condemn the praetorian ambitions of police unions, or be their silent accomplices?

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