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With Law Enforcement Pulling the Strings, a Campaign Platform is Just a Stage

Updated: Mar 15

There should be a policy restricting the acceptance of police league-funded campaign donations for candidates for the office of district attorney, of the same city/ municipality. (This article represents the views of the individual author)

The hidden power of police unions can be insidious. It allows for both the protection of bad cops while unduly influencing the infallibly sanctioned role of the District Attorney. In the case of former District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, for example, police unions seemed to play a role in her charging decisions, especially against officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Despite her progressive resume, and status as the first Black, and first female, District Attorney, her policies failed to be as forward-thinking as expected. Her campaign, having been financially backed, largely by police unions, was a point of interest that would pose an ongoing conflict in terms of her loyalties. By financing city council campaigns and supporting District Attorney candidates like Lacey, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) gained a powerful ally in the justice system and an upper hand in pay and benefits negotiations.

Lacey’s tenure as a deputy DA included big wins against law enforcement agencies. Ironically, she would later be criticized for failing to hold police officers accountable for their misconduct. Her time in office was anticipated to bring about revolutionary change, but instead, she found herself compromising the safety of members of the very community she was tasked to serve and protect.

Thus, police unions can have a significant impact on whether a district attorney, like Lacey, would feel comfortable in enforcing discipline or bringing charges against police officers, who often engage in excessive force. The lack of accountability inherent in this arrangement makes for a situation wrought with disparate treatment and unfair charging practices. It is this type of situation that then leads to problematic officers being allowed to continually have their misdeeds swept under the rug. This creates an incentive for DA candidates to side with the union and protect accused officers, even in cases of obvious abuse.

Take the case of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who had 17 excessive-force complaints against him before he killed George Floyd while kneeling on his neck. This illustrates how pervasive the power of police unions can be to protect bad cops. Unless every member of our justice system is held accountable, injustice will inevitably prevail. That injustice often manifests as police brutality and misconduct.

Thus, we need a policy restricting the acceptance of campaign donations by candidates, from interested and connected arms of the government. Otherwise, the corrupting influence of police unions on the justice system will continue to be an obstacle to reform and accountability for officers who engage in misconduct. It will be irrelevant how progressive a platform future District Attorney candidates campaign on if it will ultimately be the police unions pulling his/her strings in the long run. We need greater accountability for police unions to prevent the protection of bad cops and ensure justice for victims of police brutality.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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