Massachusetts’ Big Problem With Police Union Contracts

I’m for paying the police well. I believe that the worst thing society can have are dishonest cops. If they are paid well then the incentive to be dishonest is decreased. They have to weigh losing the good pay they receive if they involve themselves in any illegal shenanigans.

For some on the police forces, especially those who walk the streets and patrol the highways the job can be tough. Dealing with the public is always going to be stressful especially when you have to tell people that they did something wrong. The higher up you move in the police ranks the less interaction with the public a police officer has. His or her duty then is to oversee the operations of those under them, those who have the hardest job of the daily interactions with the public and the dangers involved in that activity.

We want our police to be honest and alert and aggressive when it comes to providing for our safety. We have to understand that in some circumstances they are going to overreact to some of the push back they face in doing their jobs. Some who encounter the same guy doing the same petty criminal activity may act a little too harsh against him in frustration. To put up with all the tension and strain involved in this activity police officers must be well compensated.

The problem I see is that the ones who are receiving the most compensation are not those who must confront the public on a daily basis with all the inherent problems but those who sit back behind the desk at a station house. They have a different job than the police officer on the street. They face much less of the dangers on the job.

At one time I represented union workers. As I recall there was a difference between the members of the union and their supervisors. These were considered management representatives. They had no right to be represented by a union.

The National Labor Relations Board defines a supervisor as an:  employee who assigns overall duties to other employees or is held responsible for directing such other employees to perform specific assignments, and who exercises independent judgment and discretion in doing so, will be considered a “supervisor” 

In other words an employer needs to have someone who represents it. With the police in the Commonwealth, it seems that not only are the patrolmen in unions but so are the supervisors. Under the law the supervisors are not entitled to overtime. The rule is a person engaged in managing and directing the work of two or more employees whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring or firing and as to the advancement and promotion or any other change of status of other employees will be given particular weight and who customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment is not required to receive overtime.

Yet in police departments the highest supervisors who set their own schedules and decide for themselves whether to work overtime get paid for that work. That is why the sergeants and detective lieutenant at Logan airport make more that $300,000 a year. They decide when they will feed from the trough.

It all reminds me of the days when I used to do a lot of wiretaps. One time I was doing one with the State Police Special Service Unit. I believed as part of doing a wiretap I had to be at the plant whenever I could. That would mean on most days if I wasn’t in court I would go to where the operation was taking place and observe it. I’d do that to keep up to date with events, to plan out with whomever was in charge of the police future events, and because as I understood it I was required by law to supervise it.

We were doing bookie taps and we’d have the wire up until eight at night or so. (Drug taps would go longer.) Often I just stood there observing things. This one occasion I had been doing this for a week or so when I was approached by a trooper who was a new member of the SSU. He said to me something along the line: “you really got it made.” I was puzzled and asked what he meant. He smiled and said: “You can really rake it in.” 

Still confused I said “what are you talking about?” He said: “The overtime. You’re just standing around and pulling in all that overtime.” When I told him I didn’t get overtime I could see that his impression of me sank. His expression suggesting he was thinking “what kind of fool would put so much time in without getting paid.” 

I often thought I would have done well, as would many of the other assistant district attorneys, if we could set our own overtime. I wondered how greedy would I have become; or, not wanting to be too much of a pig not done my job properly. That is the problem with police overtime for supervisors: they set it themselves. Where, except in Massachusetts, do people decide without oversight how much they will extract from their employer.



6 thoughts on “Massachusetts’ Big Problem With Police Union Contracts

  1. John

    Do the math.

    Those Troopers would have to work over 80 hours a week every week to make over 300 k.

    I’m sure they did !

  2. Khalid

    Wa-llahi! In a commodified society, cops should charge what ever the market will bear. How much would you pay to protect your life, and, secure your goods? That’s capitalism. Quit your bitching, or, make, and, be, your own law.

  3. tadzio

    The reasons people take a job are many. Money is just one of them. It is often not much of a factor. A pay rate, high or low, will not make an honest man out of a chiseler. Nor can a fair pay be determined by special pleading – the they-risk-their-lives meme. So do roofers but you never hear violins when one dies or do you get begging phone calls as you do when a cop calls seeking more money for a profession with the best death on duty benefits in the country.

    How to determine a wage. The market can do it. When there is an opening you want about three qualified candidates for the job. You then pick from that pool on the basis of intangibles such as compatibility. If no one is showing up, the pay rate needs some pumping. If the line runs around the block the pay is too high.

    When Hector was pup NYC advertised from Baltimore to Portland to recruit patrolmen. It was notably unsuccessful. Even at a tender age I thought – have the idiots ever thought about increasing the pay? Later when some some thousands of applicants lined up in Boston for a dozen or so openings for the same position I thought that the job was too much of a bulging, dribbling udder.

    Every job has imponderables that are not measurable other than by the free marketplace. A woman may insist on being home for the kids after school which means no overtime. Prestige counts for a lot. A sense of power is an incentive. Job security and a pension are the most potent psychological factors that that make it impossible to think out a just wage. Let the marketplace decide. Public employee unions are a too large thumb on that scale.

  4. Khalid

    <Matt: A Chicago PD Superintendent clears two-sixty, and, change. A Captain makes about one-twenty, when, things shake out. It costs a lot to live in the city, as required under regulations. No doubt, your Staties need the dough, too. What's your argument, they ain't worth the money?

    1. tadzio

      Goat milkers need money too. The cost of living in Chicago is the same for goat milkers as it is for police captains.
      ¡Goat Milkers Of The World Unite!

  5. Norwood Born

    It goes far , far beyond that. You are old enough to have lived many decades BEFORE the tragic events of 9/11. It used to be in society that a citizen could question the expense of police overtime and also excessive force and outright shootings of unarmed citizens. Now it seems to do that is to be unpatriotic.The generation that grew up out of the 1960s and 1970s a time of protest and freedom has become the go along to get along generation. Do I think police deserve hundreds of thousands of dollars per year? No. the comments after will call me a liberal, a commie etc. Selfish is as selfish does.

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