By now, you've heard about the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association (BPPA), its labor dispute with the city, and the implications for the DNC. If not, please read my previous rants, er, posts on the subject here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
I went over to the BPPA site to see their upcoming protest schedule. I found no scheduled future protests (yet), but once again saw something I didn't fully process until today. The BPPA told its members not to work voluntary overtime or paid details on certain dates, notably during the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which ended yesterday.
Paid details are private uses of uniformed police. They are mandated at construction sites on public roads and are optional for other events like big parties or outdoor fundraisers where the presence of an officer is thought to be helpful for traffic or safety. The detail officer's pay comes from the utility or the contractor or party host, who usually lets the city handle the billing and actually writes the check to the city, which of course charges a fee for the administration of the detail.
Here's the thing: paid details are the lifeblood of a union cop. Probably even closer to a cop's heart than the Quinn Bill, paid details are the benefit cops most fear losing. Periodically, some new state representative or public policy advocate will suggest doing away with the paid detail in favor of some other, more efficient, method of protecting work sites. Before being run out of town or otherwise gently persuaded to withdraw the proposal, most of these reformers are told the error of their ways. You don't challenge police unions if you want to get re-elected.
When such reform proposals come up, cops trot out their standard arguments in favor of the details. Chief among the arguments is the assertion that public safety is enhanced by the details. Paid details mean more uniformed cops on the street than would otherwise be out in public. Once in a while, a detail cop will intervene in a crime or help at an accident that occurs nearby his detail. In those instances, the union will trumpet the public good created by the detail: "Thank God Officer Kelly was standing by that Verizon truck when the drunk driver knocked over the stop sign. Otherwise, he might never have been caught."
The claim of enhanced public safety due to details is mostly bogus. And details themselves are a complete waste of everyone's money. When was the last time you saw a benefit to having a cop at a work site? Often, they just sit in their cars and read the paper. Or pace about and chat with the workers. Hell, I don't blame them. I've worked details. They're boring. Really stupifyingly, mind-killingly, zeal-crushingly boring. But cops love them. That's how they pay for their boats.
So when Thomas Nee, president of the BPPA, tells his guys to stay home from the details, it's probably a good thing overall. But he can't have it both ways. After all, union members claim they will not do anything to endanger public safety.
Either details are good for public safety, in which case the refusal to work them is detrimental, or they're not. I think not. But the union thinks they are.
By its own position, then, the BPPA is endangering public safety in this selfish, greedy, labor dispute.