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Police Unions Buy Their Way Out of Reform

Federal contributions during the same period have totaled $47.3 million.

The Guardian asserts unions and police use spending as a tool to defeat reform measures. They strategically target and donate to key politicians who show a history of being against reform policies and enhancing police accountability. This type of spending has dramatically increased in the last 10 years, explaining why most reform bills have been defeated even in the face of all the high-profile police shootings.

Director of Stop LAPD Spying Hamid Khan said, “The power of their money runs very deep.” Government entities “have become rubber-stamp bodies in which police power is never challenged.”

Los Angeles unions alone have spent $64.8 million on campaign contributions to block reform. The Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association stated in a letter to its 8,000 members that they need donations of at least $2 million more to be used in establishing “collaborative relationships” with influential lawmakers.

University of California, Berkley, professor Dan Schnur said, “Law enforcement is going to spend its money defensively — instead of pushing for changes in the law that work to their benefit, their primary goal is one of self-preservation.”

Los Angeles police unions have contributed $751,000 to the city council’s ad-hoc committee on police reform chaired by Herb Wesson, Jr., who is accused of using his position to block attempts at police accountability; $110,000 to city council public safety committee chair Monica Rodriguez, staunch supporter of the police department; and $25,000 to city council budget committee chair Paul Krekorian, who advanced a 7% funding increase in February for the Los Angeles Police Department.

California unions also have used campaign contributions to help block the proposed ban on the death penalty and to pass a counterproposal that actually sped up execution times. Additionally, they have donated more than $752,000 to all of the state assembly’s law enforcement committee members.

Reform advocates have worked for years in New York to have the legislature repeal state law “50-a,” which shields police misconduct records from access by the public. According to The Guardian, New York police unions have spent about $1.3 million to see that repeal efforts were blocked.

The killing of George Floyd has had a tremendous impact on reform views. Governor Andrew Cuomo, accused of blocking the repeal of 50-a in the past has switched his position since the Floyd killing and now supports repealing the law. “The murder of George Floyd was just the tipping point,” he said.

John Kaehny of the government transparency nonprofit Reinvent Albany said, “The day before George Floyd, this legislation was going nowhere. It did a 180 after the Floyd protests.” 


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