Police officers are unlike any other union members in the country. Unlike most blue-collar workers in America, police officers witness everyday the failings of the criminal justice and the social assistance systems. We have a front row seat in the courtroom everyday witnessing the futility of a criminal justice system that allows criminals to walk free and then blames police instead of failed, under-funded, or pork-barrel non-profit social programs for a rising crime rate.
Cops know first-hand about toothless illegal immigration policies that have permitted thousands of illegal aliens to walk our streets selling drugs with impunity, robbing our citizens, or –as in the recent highly publicized trial and conviction here in the city – murdering our innocent families and residents. We know about the abject failures of social programs designed to “temporarily” help people in need, but which become virtual entitlements to generations of uneducated, undisciplined, unmotivated people wholly dependent on the “Nanny State” to provide for every aspect of their lives.
“We know about the abject failures of social programs designed to “temporarily” help people in need, but which become virtual entitlements to generations of uneducated, undisciplined, unmotivated people wholly dependent on the “Nanny State” to provide for every aspect of their lives.”
This is what drives many of us to be more conservative than most union members, and ultimately results in many of our members describing themselves as Republicans.
But, social issues aside, is the Republican Party actually an ally of the 21st Century police officer? Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear so.
My good friend Tommy Nees, President of the Boston POA, is fond of stating that cops are "Republicans with Democratic needs." I think he hit the nail on the head. That’s certainly the case in San Francisco, and probably all of the greater Bay Area. Cops think like Republicans when it comes to the fundamental law and order issues, but they act like Democrats on most labor and employee issues.
There is only one bloc of constituent voters to whom San Francisco Police Officers are beholding for their top-shelf salary and benefits – the Democrats. One can probably toss in most of the Independents, as well, but certainly no more than a handful of the Republicans. In this liberal city, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 5 fold. The next time you walk into your bank to deposit your paycheck, remember that it was written and signed by the Democrats.
Many years ago when I became actively involved with POA politics, then Vice President Paul Chignell said me, " Gary, the Republicans will give you more guns, better radio cars, and will pat you on the back and tell you what a great job you are doing, but they don’t want to pay you much more than minimum wage to do this job." In hindsight, that may have been the most insightful thing Paul ever told me.
It took me a few years to realize that Paul was 100 % correct. I too was a viewer of the right wing pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. I too laughed when they would make fun of liberals who were soft on crime. But as time went on, I realized something else. Most of these wealthy people who would tell you that couldn't pay them enough to do our job are really self proclaimed elitists who think we are just blue collar, under-educated bottom feeders who can not find better paying jobs. That’s an important distinction. Most of these upper-class folks, feel that we are lowly workers feeding at the public trough. In contrast, most of us believe that we embarked deliberately and proudly and honorably on a career path of public service.
“Almost overnight, the heroes of 9-11 became the whipping boys of a financial collapse mainly caused by the greed and avarice of the banks, corporations, and hedge fund investors.”
Following the economic meltdown of 2008, the wealthy elitists saw their portfolio valuations diminish by millions of dollars. These are many of the folks who owned significant shares of public pension funds, such as CalPers. They turned their venom on America’s public workers, particularly its public safety corps. Almost overnight, the heroes of 9-11 became the whipping boys of a financial collapse mainly caused by the greed and avarice of the banks, corporations, and hedge fund investors.
These are republicans, guys like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. These are not your friends. They have cleverly shifted the blame for all of this country’s economic woes from Wall Street to the retirement boards of this country. The attitude of these billionaires is, " How dare these public safety people make these kind of pensions. They are unrefined grunts who should be working for $50 grand a year. That's what they think, people, and if you believe anything else you are politically very naive.
I recently received an email from my counterpart in San Diego, a city that is intent on decimating the salary and benefits of its police officers. The email was a heads-up about a series of speeches that Mitt Romney had given on the campaign trail. He was on record as railing against the “excessive” public safety pensions in this country. I tuned into the Bill O'Reilly show a couple of weeks ago and heard him chastising Police officers and firefighters for their excess pensions and benefits.
The reality is that the same people we think are such great supporters because of their stand on crime and punishment are the same folks who do not want you to receive fair wages and benefits to back up their social position. In truth, they think you are below them and think we are not capable of succeeding in the "real world."
I am now an ex-Republican who believes in strong unions, fair wages, and comfortable pensions for every blue-collar work in America. I advise every one of you to listen to the words that come out of the Scott Walker's of the world and tell me where the average worker in America will be if his ilk gains power. They want to break the unions, increase their profit margin, and even further widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I'm not buying it. The next time some backslapping millionaire tells you what a great job your doing, look him in the eye and ask, " What do you think of my pension?"
That's when you'll hear what they really think.