In the current U.S. sociopolitical and cultural setting, the police have been facing quite a diverse range of complex challenges. A significant part of the challenges faced by the law enforcement system has been linked to police brutality and related protests, which were completely justified, albeit implemented in a rather forceful manner (Thomas & Tufts, 2020). However, the administrative and managerial concerns faced by the police are unanimously considered to be a nuisance that must be managed to improve the police’s performance.
The problem of police unions as the force that opposes reforms and inhibits their implementation in the law enforcement setting has been a reasonable concern to raise, which is why it needs to be managed further on administrative and legal levels. While police unions should remain a crucial part of the decision-making process regarding the management of police-related regulations, their power in affecting reform implementation needs to be curbed, while police officers need to be made privy to the importance and positive outcomes of reforms regarding police-related issues.
The problem of police unions interfering with the management and implementation of reforms in the law enforcement context has been known and discussed for quite some time, yet very few steps have been taken to address the impact of police unions. For instance, the study by Thomas and Tufts (2020) outlines that the control over policy implementation has been exceptionally relaxed, allowing police unions to avoid complete compliance.
Moreover, research shows that police unions also obfuscate the truth about police brutality, the problem of power abuse in law enforcement units, and the opportunity for critiquing the police, in general. For example, the study by Fisk and Richardson (2017, p. 719) mentions the allegations stating that “the police union prevents the fair and thorough investigation of officer misconduct and the proper discipline of officers who have engaged in improper activity.” Although the author himself admits that some of the specified allegations have not been fully verified, there are reasons to believe that the impact produced by police unions in the context of policymaking for law enforcement has been largely neglected and ignored (Fisk & Richardson, 2017).
As a result, the police union is enabled to exert uninhibited power over policymaking and the implementation of reforms in the legal setting. (Fisk & Richardson, 2017). Thus, the reforms that most law enforcement units presume to be difficult to adjust to being integrated into the target context either uncompromisingly slowly or with significant alterations, therefore, rendering them quite inefficient and, in some cases, completely useless (Fisk & Richardson, 2017).
Therefore, changes must be made to how reforms are integrated into the law enforcement context so that the police union could exert enough influence for maintaining a democratic approach while also ensuring that the required reforms could not be hindered.
When considering the direct effects of police unions on the failure to implement changes in the law enforcement context, one should mention the specifics of decision-making in the target setting. Namely, reports indicate that, when receiving information regarding the changes to be implemented to the administrative context of the U.S. police, trade union officials prefer to view these changes as obstacles to effective police performance (Akbar, 2020). As a result, the directions that police officials in police unions give to the law enforcement workforce can be summarized as imitating the implementation of changes while maintaining the status quo (Akbar, 2020).
As a result, minimum changes are implemented, which reduces the efficacy of the relevant policies to zero (Akbar, 2020). Therefore, police unions play a direct role in preventing reforms from taking place in the environment of law enforcement (Akbar, 2020). The described phenomenon has recently been observed concerning the integration of changes to police officers’; behavior when apprehending suspects (Akbar, 2020).
Specifically, due to the need to address racial disparities observed within the law enforcement context, the necessity to introduce additional steps to prevent police officers from targeting and inflicting violence upon African American citizens has emerged (0. However, though the necessary changes have been introduced to the law enforcement context on legal and policymaking levels, very few effects have been produced on the actual process of apprehending people of color suspected of criminal activity (Akbar, 2020). Therefore, the role of police unions in implementing police-related changes in the law enforcement setting needs to be minimized.
Although the consensus seems to imply that the current framework for implementing reforms in the police unit set suffers significantly from the intrusion of police unions, the arguments in favor of the latter’s contribution should also be considered. Specifically, some sources [posit that police units represent a unique insider perspective that allows understanding of whether the proposed reforms are going to produce the desired effect on the management of key law enforcement goals (Thomas & Tufts, 2020). Indeed, the
Recommendation and Future Projections
To manage the current situation, several steps should be suggested. First, the role of police unions needs to be restricted to offering recommendations and an insider perspective on law enforcement issues as the basis for policymaking (Thomas & Tufts, 2020). Thus, police unions will remain useful in safeguarding the rights of police officers and ensuring that newly developed policies would not affect the performance of law enforcement units.
At the same time, restricting the role of police unions to the provision of recommendations and delivery of evidence for informed decision-making will keep the process of policy development in line with the proposed changes, thus, effectively preventing police unions from reducing the efficacy of modernization within the target setting (Thomas & Tufts, 2020). With the introduction of the suggested approach toward policymaking and the management of the role of police unions in it, one will be able to mitigate the problem of power abuse within police departments and the law enforcement setting, in general.
Moreover, with the focus on policymaking based on the key tenets of democracy, one will be able to alleviate the impact of racial profiling in the police department and law enforcement, in general (Thomas & Tufts, 2020). Although the issue of racism in police will not be eliminated from the current sociopolitical agenda of the U.S. entirely with the help of the proposed measures, it will allow the creation of premises for a major social change. Specifically, with the introduction of new guidelines and standards for the code of conduct in the law enforcement context, opportunities for changing police officers’ perspectives on the issue of race and the necessity to ensure that all citizens are treated equally disregarding their racial or ethnic background will be created.
Furthermore, it is strongly recommended to introduce a more effective system o monitoring within the current law enforcement setting to ensure that all police officers follow the prescribed code of conduct. As emphasized above, police unions have been known for concealing the truth about the actions that police officers take when handling ethical dilemmas in the workplace (Thomas & Tufts, 2020).
Therefore, to avoid the scenarios in which the rights of vulnerable groups are neglected, while the unlawful actions of police officers are kept secret, one will need to build a strong framework for monitoring the key processes and registering the slightest deviations from the prescribed ethical code. For this purpose, reporting tools and the principles of social responsibility must be included in the target workplace. Specifically, staff members in police departments will be encouraged to report on instances of police misconduct while remaining anonymous. Thus, an improvement in adherence to ethical standards will be observed in [police officers.
Additionally, the role of police unions will need to be revisited concerning data collection and its further use for policy development. Specifically, to avoid the instances in which police unions affect the implementation of reforms in the law enforcement context, a change in their function in policymaking should be considered. Specifically, police unions need to assume primarily the role of evidence providers and suppliers of critical information and the relevant statistical data that will inform the development of respective policies. Thus, a positive change can be introduced into the target context, with police unions no longer affecting the implementation of policies in the workplace.
Additionally, it is vital to remove the opportunity for police unions to cover the tracks of abuse perpetrated by law enforcement officers when managing key tasks associated with apprehension of suspects, questioning witnesses, and performing the related workplace tasks. Finally, by introducing the values based on the premise of social responsibility, one will reduce the extent of police brutality and help to curb the extent of police unions’ power when it comes to the promotion of new standards and criteria for effective performance.
Akbar, A. A. (2020). An abolitionist horizon for (police) reform. Calif. L. Rev., 108, 1781.
Fisk, C. L., & Richardson, L. S. (2017). Police unions. Geo. Wash. L. Rev., 85, 712.
Thomas, M. P., & Tufts, S. (2020). Blue solidarity: Police unions, race and authoritarian populism in North America. Work, Employment and Society, 34(1), 126-144.