State of the Unions
The Minneapolis Police Department is reviewing its relationship with its police union.
Yesterday, the city's police said the dept is cutting ongoing contract negotiations with its union while it holds a review. It'll examine things like use of force and protocols for discipline as part of a larger effort towards "transformational" reforms. This comes after four Minneapolis police officers were fired and charged following George Floyd's death – which sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and calls to defund the police. And after a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to disband the police department. We explain the difference between defunding and disbanding the police here.
Ok, what does that have to do with police unions?
Hundreds of thousands of officers across the country belong to some kind of police union, including more than 800 members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Officers can benefit from unions which negotiate contracts for things like salaries, workplace conditions, and protections. And like any labor union, police unions work to fight for their members. But some say those protections go too far.
When an officer faces a problem – whether it be complaints from citizens or criminal charges – the union can provide legal representation. But they can also set the terms of internal investigations within the department. Experts say that can include how long police leadership must wait before they begin an investigation, how an officer can be questioned, but also how quickly the dept has to wrap up its investigation. They say these terms have often left police chiefs with little power to fire or discipline an officer, even in cases of brutality and racism. Unions have also reportedly been criticized for being complicit in allowing racism and discrimination among the force.
Is this nationwide?
Police unions have strength in numbers, despite a drop in membership in other labor unions. And that means a lot of income in the way of union dues. Money that can be used to support political candidates or lobby against legislation that impacts officers...which can affect a city's efforts for reform.
What are police unions saying?
The union in Minneapolis hasn't commented. But in response to protests, the president of the country's largest police union – Fraternal Order of Police – said it doesn't want "bad cops" and supports reform (but apparently not dismantling and defunding police). This comes as congressional Democrats introduced a sweeping bill on police reform earlier this week.
Cities like Minneapolis are grappling with how to reform their departments in a way that meaningfully addresses the concerns of protesters. But for years, police departments have gone up against powerful entities that have limited reforms and protected officers.
What's lending a helping hand…
The Federal Reserve. Yesterday, it voted to keep interest rates near zero. And suggested they'll stay there through at least 2022. It also plans to keep buying bonds as part of its effort to prop up the economy amid the pandemic. (Psst…a bond is a loan to a gov or business that gets paid back with interest.) This would help increase the amount of money in the market. On the jobs front, the Fed predicts the unemployment rate will be on the higher end but will drop from nearly 13% to around 9% by the end of this year. It's expected to then drop to 6.5% by the end of 2021. This all comes as the US surpassed 2 million cases of COVID-19. And since all 50 states have reopened, at least 19 have reportedly seen an increase in the number of infections.
Psst...here's what a low federal funds rate could mean for your big money goals.
Who's making Capitol Hill listen…
Philonise Floyd. Yesterday, George Floyd's brother testified before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on racial profiling and police brutality. In his testimony, Floyd pleaded for police reforms and for Congress to listen to the calls around the world to "stop the pain." He also said he wanted justice for his brother, calling his death a "modern-day lynching in broad daylight." While congressional Democrats have already introduced police reform legislation, Republicans are working on a proposal of their own.
What's (still) not over…
Michael Flynn's case. Yesterday, a former judge said the Justice Department was in the wrong. Specifically, when it filed a request to drop the charges against the former national security adviser. Reminder: Flynn was facing up to five years in prison for lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat during the Trump transition. But the DOJ said the convo was "appropriate" and that the FBI was out of bounds for interviewing him in the first place. Cue the judge calling for backup and asking a retired judge to weigh in on what to do here. Yesterday, the retired judge did just that. He accused the DOJ of "gross abuse of prosecutorial power" by pushing to drop the case. And urged the court to deny the request. Next up: an appeals panel holds a hearing tomorrow on whether to drop the case.
While some are eyeing taking down Confederate statues...
What should be viewed…
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