Union busting

This evening I read what may be the stupidest anti-union statement I’ve ever run across. It showed up in my Twitter stream:

How much police bad behavior is from power granted by strength of their unions?

4:51 PM Sat Nov 19, 2011

Modeled Behavior is a blog run by three economists or quasi-economists. I don’t read their blog or follow them on Twitter—it appeared in my stream as a retweet—so I don’t know which of them wrote this or whether this is the sort of bilge they normally produce.

The tweet is presumably a response to the pepper spraying incident at UC Davis and is unusual in that kneejerk anti-union sentiment typically comes from the sort of people who applaud police brutality.

UC Davis pepper spraying

(photo from International Business Times.)

The answer to the tweet’s question is “None.” The power a police union gives its members is directed at the governmental entities—cities, counties, states, whatever—that employ the police. The power used by the police in its recent bad behavior isn’t coming from the unions; it’s coming from the very authorities the unions are typically at odds with.

One could also argue that the police officers’ power is coming from the riot gear and array of weapons they’re wearing, including the can of pepper spray that Lt. Pike is employing so casually in the photo above.

Ultimately, of course, the power of the police comes from us. We’ve equipped the police with these weapons and given the go-ahead to use them. This is what happens when we abdicate our responsibility to ensure that they’re used only when warranted.