Jeremy Dear was a problem cop. He seemed to keep getting caught up in controversy, which is hard in Albuquerque given how there’s so much police controversy that standing out isn’t easy, but Dear managed to do so. The last time began with the killing of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, for which he was, of course, cleared.
But that wasn’t the end of Dear’s problems.
“I remember at the end, I was like oh (expletives), my camera, it was unplugged,” Dear told investigators. “I mean, I’ve had problems in the past, they come unplugged, you catch that little cord on something and it snags out.”
Dear has since been fired from APD for insubordination and untruthfulness. He’s been fighting to get his job back.
What exactly happened with Hawkes’ killing is shrouded in a mystery because, you see, his Taser-made body cam was unplugged. He claims he was very upset to learn “that little cord” became unplugged.
ABQ Police Chief Gorden Eden wasn’t buying, and fired Dear.
Chief Eden made it clear that Dear’s firing wasn’t all because of the Mary Hawkes shooting; it was because he disobeyed superiors by not recording every call he responded to on his lapel camera.
Eden said he felt Dear was untruthful during the investigation.
But Eden said Tuesday that Dear’s “untruthfulness, defiance, arrogance,” and the fact that the department had tried to work with him in the past made him “unsalvageable” as an APD officer.
And so an “unsalvageable” cop was off the force. But not for long. Dear grieved his discharge and, because there was a union contract, the matter went before the city’s personnel board, who reversed the chief’s decision and reinstated Dear.
The city’s personnel board voted 3-2 this week to give back officer Jeremy Dear his position. Dear’s camera was not plugged in when he shot and killed a 19-year-old girl after a foot chase last year. He was cleared of the shooting, but fired after the city’s police chief, Gorden Eden, said that the officer routinely did not have his lapel cam running during encounters with the public, as he was allegedly ordered to do in 2013 after there were several citizen complaints lodged against him.
The officer’s attorney successfully convinced the city’s personnel board that the police department’s policy on body-worn cameras was inconsistently applied and that there were times when cameras should not be running.
While the board imposed a 90-day suspension for Dear, the city says it will appeal the decision, calling it “crazy.” But the fact remains that it’s crazy that a police officer who is called “unsalvageable” by his chief gets to go to an arbitration board at all.
By what dint of public sector labor relations fairness does a labor arbitration panel get to hand a bad cop back his gun?
That police get to unionize at all presents a fundamental problem.
Public sector unionism was always conceptually flawed. On the one hand, why should people who work for government be denied the same opportunity to collectively bargain as private sector employees? On the other, the incentives that justified private sector unions didn’t apply to the public sector, making the system untenable.
It’s not that public employees can’t be treated poorly by government. They can. And if they do, or don’t pay them well enough, they are always free to find a better job elsewhere.
But the running of government, and in particular the running of a police department, is one that demands accountability. If you don’t like how the police are treating the public, there needs to be a way to address it, and the system only provides for two. One is to sue, whether the police in general, or an officer in particular. Given Monell and qualified immunity, lawsuits are rarely available and largely unproductive.
The other way is through the political process. We get to vote against the bastards who can’t manage to run a government, including its police force, well enough to stop them from killing people. Voting, as well, isn’t a particularly effective means of expressing the public will, but it is what it is.
When a union is introduced into the mix, however, the otherwise relatively ineffective means of expressing public approval at the management of government goes right into the toilet. They have a right to grieve, and their grievance is decided by a board who owes the public nothing.
The Personnel Board is composed of five members. Two members are appointed by the Mayor, two members are selected by employees by election and then appointed by the Mayor while the remaining member is selected by the other four members.
The size and composition vary somewhat, but all such boards basically lay out the same way. There is the government’s people, the union’s people, and a theoretical neutral. Except the neutral, the person who makes the actual call since the other sides cancel each other out, is going to be a labor relations person, and when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
It’s not like police chiefs are in a huge rush to throw their cops under the bus. They have a playbook of excuses for pretty much everything, and it works almost all the time. So when Chief Eden says Dear is a bad cop, unsalvageable, that’s a huge statement.
This guy must be so bad, so horrible, that even the chief can’t muster an excuse to justify his retention as a cop. When a chief doesn’t want a cop to be on the street wearing his department’s shield, then this is a cop that shouldn’t be out there, gun in hand.
But the arbitrator decided otherwise. The city says it will appeal, but the efficacy depends on whether the decision was arbitrary and capricious. It’s nearly an impossible burden to meet, as any half-witted rhetoric is usually enough to survive. And the law favors arbitration, because it’s grounded in the notion that the resolution of labor disputes is best left to the parties to work out, and labor arbitrators are possessed of special knowledge such that courts should defer to their judgment.
So the chief thought Dear was a guy who, because of his “untruthfulness, defiance, arrogance,” shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets with a gun and shield. But an arbitrator put a gun back into Dear’s hands. Get the picture?