85 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 712 (2017)
Police Unions

handle is hein.journals/gwlr85 and id is 754 raw text is: 




                             Police Unions



                 Catherine L. Fisk & L. Song Richardson*


                                    ABSTRACT

         No issue has been more controversial in the discussion of police union
     responses to allegations of excessive force than statutory and contractual pro-
     tections for officers accused of misconduct, as critics assail such protections
     and police unions defend them. For all the public controversy over police un-
     ions, there is relatively little legal scholarship on them. Neither the legal nor
     the social science literature on policing and police reform has explored the
     opportunities and constraints that labor law offers in thinking about organiza-
     tional change. The scholarly deficit has substantial public policy conse-
     quences, as groups ranging from Black Lives Matter to the U.S. Department
     of Justice are proposing legal changes that will require the cooperation of po-
     lice labor organizations to implement. This Article fills that gap.
         Part I explores the structure and functioning of police departments and
     the evolution of police unions as a response to a hierarchical and autocratic
     command structure. Part II examines how and why police unions have been
     obstacles to reform, focusing particularly on union defense of protections for
     officers accused of misconduct. Part III describes and analyzes instances in
     which cities have implemented reforms to reduce police violence and improve
     police-community relations over fifty years. All of them involved the coopera-
     tion of the rank-and-file, and many involved active cooperation with the
     union. Part IV proposes mild changes in the law governing police labor rela-
     tions to facilitate rank-and-file support of the kinds of transparency, accounta-
     bility, and constitutional policing practices that police reformers have been
     advocating for at least a generation. We propose a limited form of minority
     union bargaining-a reform that has been advocated in other contexts by both
     the political left and the political right at various points in recent history-to
     create an institutional structure enabling diverse representatives of police rank-
     and-file to meet and confer with police management over policing practices.








     * The authors are Chancellor's Professor of Law and Professor of Law at the University
of California, Irvine School of Law. The authors wish to thank Erwin Chemerinsky, Michael
Oswalt, Martin Malin, Joe Slater, Ann Hodges, David Sklansky, and Jeff Hirsch for valuable
feedback, and Ivette Aragon, Zackory Burns, and John Sirjord for their helpful research assis-
tance. Finally, they wish to thank the staff at The George Washington Law Review for their work
editing this Article, including Melika Hadziomerovic, Julia Duke, and Richard Rothman.

May 2017 Vol. 85 No. 3

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