Phoenix Law Enforcement Association

Atticus Finch

By: Mark Spencer, PLEA President

“I don’t know if it will help saying this to you…some men in this world are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us…your father is one of them.” Miss Maudie was speaking of Atticus Finch.

Even though spoken by a fictional character in To Kill a Mockingbird, the truth it amplifies is clear in our chaotic world – it takes exceptional people to complete a job that’s vital and valuable but frequently disagreeable.   It wasn’t pleasant for Atticus to raise two children as a widower.  It wasn’t pleasant for Atticus to shoot a rabid dog roaming around the town.  It wasn’t pleasant for Atticus to defend an innocent black man in the white South of the 30s.  Atticus Finch had courage.  Courage is a cure that confronts unpleasant issues from overcoming our world.  It’s not a difficult step to compare a police officer with Atticus Finch; a rare person who does “our unpleasant jobs for us.”

Within our world of the Phoenix Police Department, there’s an unpleasant job people aren’t fighting to fill. Like police work, it’s a job that’s also vital and valuable but frequently disagreeable –a PLEA board member.   Like a police officer, one doesn’t become a PLEA board member to get rich (the board fees paid to fire union trustees can be up to 7 times more than their police peers at PLEA).  Like a police officer, one doesn’t become a PLEA board member to avoid conflict (remember, just like the police officer that runs TO the gun fight, board members are also expected to run towards and confront conflict). Like a police officer, one doesn’t become a PLEA board member to look the other way.  Like a police officer, one doesn’t become a PLEA board member to become pleasantly popular.  PLEA board members do “our unpleasant jobs for us” because front-line rank-and-file police officers are worth protecting and serving.

PLEA members are the bosses who elect those who volunteer to do “our unpleasant jobs for us.”  Being the highest paid officers in the State wasn’t a gift from a management fraternity or the Easter Bunny – your elected PLEA board did the difficult job of negotiating.  Our contractual rights and benefits didn’t arise from the ooze while being fueled by chance and time – elected PLEA board members engineered and energized an MOU that’s the envy of everyone in the State.  Political influence and community outreach aren’t the result of wishing upon a star – your elected PLEA board members walk the point with these partners to make a difference in our world.  Unprecedented layoffs were avoided not because of a lunar cycle and an alignment of the planets but because PLEA board members carried out the members’ directions to work with City management and agree to temporary concessions (34₵ an hour wage reduction and 16 furlough hours/year).

PPSLA adheres religiously to a simple philosophy – support the policy and the policy makers.  FOP has active and retired police managers on their board as well as civilians and doesn’t negotiate a single police contract in Arizona.  What’s made PLEA a distinctive and successful (not perfect) police labor association since 1975 is the unified voice of rank-and-file police officers unfettered and unhindered by any management influence or domination.  Simply put – it’s all about the members.  Members own, drive and direct the Association.   Just look at the PLEA bylaws:

  • Members pay the bills
  • Members have unfettered access to their Association’s budget.
  • Members have a right to vote.
  • Members have the right to attend membership meetings.
  • Members can pick up the phone anytime and correct, vent, or bless any board member.

Among many attributes, Atticus Finch was patient, intelligent, self-controlled, and fair. In addition to his courage, it’s these qualities that made him stand apart from others.  Since 1997 PLEA members have allowed me to serve them and commit to their success as a PLEA board member.  During this 15 years a pattern emerged;  board members who stand apart from others have similar qualities.  An effective board member:

  • Is kind
  • Won’t trade truth
  • Communicates well
  • Apologizes when wrong
  • Not a one-issue member
  • Doesn’t attend meetings alone
  • Has no acceptable casualty rate
  • Engages in aggressive representation
  • Whenever possible, pursues peace with all
  • Has the best interests of the members in mind
  • Grasps the concept that sometimes less is more
  • Doesn’t look for fights but is able to finish them
  • Understands that it’s better to be feared than liked
  • Believes that there is wisdom in the counsel of many
  • Is a servant-leader who is committed to the success of others

With these qualities in mind and with an upcoming election just around the corner, I’ve encouraged the following PLEA members to run for the PLEA board – Joe Clure (President), Dave Kothe (Trustee), Ken Crane (Vice-President), Jerry Gannon (Trustee), Will Buividas (Treasurer), Frank Marino (Secretary), and Bill Gallus, Frank Smith, Toby Sexton, Mike London, Tim Baiardi, Tom Tardy and Rob Warren for trustee.

The mission of the PLEA board over the last 4 years: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MEMBERS.  This has been carried out through three strategies:

  1. Aggressive representation
  2. Positive partnerships
  3. Holding police management publicly accountable.

Please take the time to communicate if you feel a need to change these strategies.  The PLEA board needs to know your priorities, where you want your Association to go, and the route to be taken.  Recap articles and rep files will tell PLEA members what candidates are engaged in the vital and valuable but frequently disagreeable WORK of representation.  The amount of representation and participation provide a good perspective if a nominee operates like Atticus Finch.  In deciding who to vote for, I would challenge you as fellow members to call the PLEA office and see which candidates are actually doing the “unpleasant job for us.”  Atticus Finch couldn’t have done the job he was born to do without the opportunity to do it.  Your vote is your voice – your vote allows candidates to do the “unpleasant job for us.”