Police and Fire Workers Need Their Rights

Police AbuseIn general, I’ve avoided the issue of the acceptability of the New York Police officers turning their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at the two recent funerals. The main reason is simply that the act of the officers struck me as so incredibly immature that I couldn’t bring myself to discuss the deeper issue. It didn’t help that the issue itself is difficult. But I think I have to side with the police officers’ rights, even if I don’t side with the officers themselves, who I think are generally a bunch of whining pussies who should have gone into cosmetology rather than police work.

The argument against the right of officers to stage such a protest is that they are in uniform. I think it is sad that this is an argument that I hear a lot from liberals. But I don’t see how this really matters. This kind of thinking is what has caused jobs to become more and more all encompassing as time has gone on. The end result are things like employees being on call at all times and having to submit to credit checks when applying for jobs. It’s all nonsense.

In the modern world, we all need to have jobs. It simply isn’t the case that one can “go west” and make his living by farming some unused piece of land. All the land is owned and the poor are not born with capital. But more and more, having a job — even a crummy one — is dependent upon a worker’s being the “right kind” of person. In fact, having a saving account and a room rental are too. Our entire society is now set up so that those who most need a job have the hardest time finding one. And once in a job, the worker is expected to give his entire life to it. Just “putting in the time and getting the work done” is not enough.

Personally, I find the tradition of police officers showing up at funerals in uniform offensive. But it is part of a larger tradition of turning police officers into heroes. The recent meme that “blue lives matter” was a joke. Everyone knows that the society as a whole holds up police lives as higher than ordinary lives, and this is made official in law. I do not accept this. I do not think police should attend funerals in uniform. But these are separate issues. The fact remains that these officers are off duty and thus have every right to act like the immature pussies they are.

I don’t think the optics matter either. It is hard to tarnish the reputation of police departments at this point. Not allowing highly intelligent people on the force? Killing 12-year-old boys with nary a thought? Generally seeing the non-police population as subhuman criminals? These sorts of things have already tarnished the police far more. The only people who seem to have a high opinion of the police are the police themselves and others who have had little interaction with them.

Today at Political Animal, Charles Ellison brought my attention to a similar case where a fire chief was suspended and then discharged for things he wrote in a Christian book, Who Told You That You Were Naked? There are some vile, anti-gay things in the book. But it is his right. Unless there is some indication that he doesn’t fight fires as aggressively for the LGBT community, I don’t see the problem.

To me, the bigger problem is why it is that our police and fire departments seem to be filled with a lot of simpleminded bigots who don’t see themselves as servants of the people but as their betters. Of course, I’m much more concerned about anonymous workers’ rights that are commonly being trampled on than these well represented workers’ rights to offend the civilian population. But the issue is that we need to expand all workers’ rights and not focus on reducing the rights of the small number of workers who still have them.

Update (16 January 2015 7:03 pm)

Before someone counters me, I should be clear. The specific issue is that police are allowed to wander around in their uniforms when they are not on duty. If there is an issue with a police protests during a funeral, it should be that the police are allowed to attend the funeral in uniform. At any such event, there are paid representatives. They should not be allowed to “protest” in this way. The police need to get a much better sense (as the military has) that they are under civilian command. I am no friend of the police, but I am a friend of workers. And police are workers. And they need to act like it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Police and Fire Workers Need Their Rights

  1. I hadn’t thought of the protesting-while-in-uniform angle; that’s a good point. After all a postal employee can’t wear a campaign button on the clock. In the military you are allowed to wear your uniform off-duty if you wish (if you’re proud of it, think it will get you dates, your civilian clothes have stains on them, etc.) but you are expressly told that if you wear the uniform, you are considered to be representing the military and any punishment for off-duty behavior is going to be a LOT harsher if you are in uniform. How the military feels about appearing in protests in uniform, I don’t know.

    The episode with shunning the mayor reminded me of sailors donning mops as wigs and making “gay” foppish gestures at Clinton after he signed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I thought every sailor who participated, and the boat’s commander (you’re responsible for the behavior of sailors on duty under your command) should have been immediately given honorable discharges. Let the military know who’s boss.

    However, cops are public employees, not members of the military (they may act similarly.) You willingly sign away your civilian rights when you join the military; not when you become a public employee. If off-duty, non-uniformed cops want to jeer the mayor at a public event, that’s their right. (It’s also then the mayor’s right to sack the chief of police if the city has given the mayor that power.) We’d be proud if off-duty cops were booing a mayor who was trying to harm other public employee unions. If cops insult a mayor for allowing legal social protest, it is a public employee’s off-duty right to express such a loathsome political opinion.

    Incidentally the police union in Milwaukee gave its endorsement to Scott Walker both when he ran for office (OK) and during the recall vote after Walker started going after other public employee unions (boo, hiss!) What an asshole move. I guarantee you if the situation had been reversed, teachers and librarians and social workers would have stood in solidarity with the police union.

    Last side note! I recently read “Storm Surge” about Hurricane Sandy. When cops and firefighters were helping flood victims (good), many elderly/disabled residents were being forgotten (accidentally, but still very bad.) Guess what was the first organization to step in and do what police and fire units were overlooking? OWS veterans, whom police had beaten up not long before. Social protesters 1, Those Who Protect And Serve 0.

    • It is hard to get behind the police because as a unionized workforce, they have a special standing. Walker specifically exempted them. But the bigger problem is just that police work attacks a bunch of dicks. And when you get a bunch of dicks together, they just get worse.

      Interesting about OWS and the hurricane. People keep asking, “What happened to OWS?” Well, they are working on things. They aren’t like the Tea Party that doesn’t public whining and has a whole “news” network to cover it.

      • Walker’s floated comments now and immediately backed off about nuking the police union, too, surprise surprise! “First they came for . . .”

        The criticism of OWS was, and seemingly valid, that “what did it change!” It changed the hell out off the people who did it. Hate to be sentimental but when I read about OWS folks saving the old and disabled I started bawling. That’s the point; that’s what activism fucking is. I need to get off my ass and participate; I don’t exactly know how and I’m lazy.

        • And what did the Tea Party change? I don’t give them credit for 2010. They haven’t done anything at all. They are just a marketing gimmick — brought to you by the same old oligarchs.

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