Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Philadelphia cops want to run the city without living here

I'm not fond of this idea, frankly:
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 is taking Mayor Nutter and the city's Ethics Board to court.

FOP president John McNesby said the union filed a civil lawsuit against the city last week over a decades-old rule that prohibits cops from making political donations.

The police union is the only one in the city that can't make donations to politicians or to a political-action committee.

"We're treated like second-class citizens," McNesby said. "Enough is enough."
The FOP is clearly one of the city's power-brokers, so maybe it's pointless to complain about the union putting its money where it's mouth is. And certainly, I'm not generally one to oppose unions—even municipal unions—acting in the political realm.

It's just that McNesby's "second-class citizens" comment sticks in my craw a bit. After all, McNesby won for his union the right for cops not to have to live in the city limits. That has always been a bad idea. And the result, when combined with McNesby's new effort, is to create a Philadelphia police force that has sway over the city's politics even if—potentially—a substantial portion of its membership doesn't live here anymore. That bothers me.

It might not bother me so much if the department weren't continually awash in corruption scandals. But it is. From where I sit, it appears that the FOP is seeking to expand its power in the community while continually eluding accountability—both formal, and the informal type that comes from having to live among the people you police. It's a toxic mix, and bad for the rest of us.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

Not sure about the "not living in the city" thing: there are a lot of cities in the U.S. where public employees like police and schoolteachers can't afford to live in the places they serve. I don't know the details with the Philly police, but I'm hesitant to censure them for this.

Joel said...

Starting pay for a police officer is $40,000. Median household income in Philly is $37,000. I don't think that's the problem--and it wasn't what was cited by the FOP when they made the pitch. They just wanted to live someplace better than Philly.