Police unions also use the protections they’ve collectively bargained into the disciplinary appeals process to slow down the justice system when officers begin to face scrutiny. One study found that 70% of the 656 union contracts evaluated by researchers allow officers to appeal to an “arbitrator,” or a third party, who has the power to determine disciplinary action or dismiss it altogether. And here’s the catch: About 54% of these contracts gave the unions the power to select the arbitrator. In other words, if the union appeals an officer’s case and the appeal is approved, it can choose an arbitrator who will make the case disappear.
This is why so few cops are held accountable. Even when they are, police unions are able to drag the process. To use the example of Chauvin once again, it took the Minneapolis Police Department five days even to arrest him. There is no satisfactory explanation for this delay. Investigators did not need to “nail down” every piece of evidence. All they needed was probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed. For that, they had the video of Floyd’s death.
Perhaps law enforcement should be afforded some extra consideration due to the nature of the job. But officers should not be allowed to play by a whole different set of rules — rules that are often written by their unions and negotiated into effect.