The Police Officers Association is apparently a hybrid company union and protection racket.
On Feb. 12, Jonah Owen Lamb’s article in this newspaper detailed heavy pressure the POA and its retired President-cum-perpetual-blowhard-on-retainer Gary Delagnes brought in December on supervisors about a meaningless nonbinding resolution by Supervisor John Avalos about how police killing black folks with impunity across America might not be rad.
Lamb obtained emails to supervisors via a public-records request. It’s startlingly rare to read news that features original investigation rather than the recitation of talking points from both sides regardless of veracity that masquerades as news.
Delagnes wrote to Supervisor Malia Cohen on Dec. 9, on the POA’s behalf, about the proposed resolution: “Malia. My thought is that you must have lost your mind. If you become involved in this legislation you can rest assured that any relation with the POA is over. We went above and beyond for you and this is how you repay us. You had better think long and hard before lending your name to this. I am astounded that you would involve yourself in this absolute bullshit.”
This must represent that new era of civility in City Hall I’ve heard so much about. If a progressive addressed a legislator that way, C.W. Nevius would have spent 50 huffy columns on it.
Moreover, Delagnes is aghast at the implication that police violence has anything to do with racism. He wrote to Cohen, “To perpetuate the myth that racism is a systemic problem in police department’s throughout the Unites States is wrong and untrue.”
Actually, an analysis by ProPublica found that young black men were 21 times more likely to be killed by police. I suppose it’s possible that such a staggering disparity is a fluke rather than a systemic problem. In the way that the infinite monkey theorem is an engrossing thought experiment when you’re 19 and stoned, I guess the infinitesimal probability is greater than zero that the last five centuries of white supremacy are just the worst run of unlucky coincidences in human history befalling the African diaspora. It cements Delagnes’ legacy as the most oblivious police apologist west of Ferguson, Mo. Delagnes has cut off his nose to spite his face, using Occam’s Razor.
Supposedly politicians don’t criticize police because of their unions’ Klout score, which is why Delagnes is not dismissed like one of our many random City Hall wackos. The truth is that the POA is electorally impotent.
For example, in 2014, the POA reported $157,000 spent on local elections to the Ethics Commission, of which almost 90 percent went to the joint cops-Ron Conway independent expenditure committee in support of the minimum-wage increase. They spent heavily on a committee to boost the mayor’s profile on a measure that won with 77 percent of the vote with no real opposition. It didn’t engage on any contested races, which includes whatever “going above and beyond” for Cohen meant.
Lamb notes that the POA previously attacked supervisors Chris Daly and Eric Mar. Both supervisors were re-elected handily in previous elections after running afoul of the POA, so voters don’t care what the fuzz has to say.
Police don’t need to win elections because they get to beat people. Police Chief Greg Suhr’s response to Avalos about his resolution: “I’m not sure I can continue to keep them in line if they’re angry by this resolution.” Suhr is declaring that he’s an incapable leader. He’s reminding us that police are an uncontrollable armed mob of short-tempered men who can’t take constructive criticism. We’re all living the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Persuading voters is for the weak. Delagnes just has to remind politicians how he’s so butch and burly that if he becomes unhinged, he’s not responsible if someone gets maimed. Police think we don’t notice that they’re killing and hurting innocent people whether or not we criticize them. So they really have nothing left to offer.
Nato Green is a comedian and writer who performs with The Business at the Hemlock Tavern, now on Tuesdays.