We’ve all taken a family trip. We pack our gear, lock up the house, get someone to take care of the dog, and hop in the car. For large families, reality and room in the car demand a driver, require a navigator, and mandate a passenger. The driver gets the group there, the navigator determines the course, and the passenger goes along for the ride.
Politics are similar to this large family outing – nationally and locally everyone is going on journey. Elections determine destination points – where we’re going. Certainly a trip was underway in 2010 and input from PLEA members was consistent with the political compasses seen coast to coast; across the country and in Arizona a new driver was going to sit behind the wheel. The perception of a faltering economy, an ineffective, overreaching federal government, and out-of-control spending was the fuel moving this trip down the road. If one just took the time to look at the map it was easy to see partisan change was on the way.
Input is only as good as the view. When one is locked in the trunk of the car, criticism of the driving and the route carries little weight. Because they’re both in the back with the rest of the luggage, some tabloids and management fraternities share the same perspective. This baggage believes that when PLEA reaches out across aisles to partner with both halves of the partisan process, PLEA members are hurt and our ability to solve police labor issues is compromised. In contrast, your Association understands that wise political investments benefit both cops and communities. That’s why PLEA’s input in the political process is critical for a successful journey.
Since a Republican driver was going to be steering at the State legislature, PLEA had a choice: provide input to the operator with a route or sit in the back seat with our Democratic partners and our mouths shut, our arms folded. The destination of the country was fiscal responsibility and this political excursion included state pension reforms. The crucial role that PLEA members play in our communities demanded that your Association get up in front with the driver and provide valuable input as to how to reach the destination. As always, it’s important that law enforcement has a seat near the wheel.
Your Association’s political endorsements and support placed PLEA members up front. The past positive partnerships with our elected Republican partners made the choice of the right front side of the car an easy decision. Police management fraternities quickly made the trip more difficult. Endorsements for Romley and Rotellini coupled with fruitless attacks on Republican leadership have relegated them to the luggage rack with no voice.
It’s hard work being up front with the majority driver. An incomplete list of legislators that PLEA and the APA are “traveling” with include Kirk Adams, John Kavanagh, Steve Montenegro, Andy Tobin, Jerry Weiers, Bob Robson, Senate President Russell Pearce, Lori Klein, Michele Reagan, Linda Gray, John Nelson, John McComish, Andy Biggs, Al Melvin, Frank Antenori, and Governor Brewer. It’s from our crucial front-seat position with these “drivers” that PLEA and the APA have navigated to legislative protections for rank-and-file officers throughout Arizona. Just like they did in the last legislative session, Republican “drivers” in this session once again see police needs and are willing to solve police problems by supporting what many might label “pro-union” front-line legislation:
- HB2613 – Law Enforcement Officer Misconduct Reporting: Police Associations can report police management misconduct directly to AzPost for investigative support and certification action.
- HB2476 – Workers’ Comp MRSA: Police personnel now have more time to report and manage MRSA infections.
- HB2477 – Law Enforcement Witness Representation: Police personnel who are called in as administrative witnesses now have the right to representation.
- HB2444 – Polygraph and Investigations: Applications for the use of polygraphs are limited and internal administrative investigations are limited to 120 days.
- SB1057 – Law Enforcement Officer Discipline Action: Violation of “Just Cause” legislation from last session now has “teeth.” Officers can appeal to Superior Court if a department violates “Just Cause.”
- SB1235 – Law Enforcement Discipline Procedures: Discipline administered to law enforcement personnel must be based on parity.
Through open and honest dialogue and a commitment to reasonable reform, PLEA and the APA continue to be important co-pilots in protecting police pensions. The pension road some want to take is unreasonable, inconsistent, and unconstitutional. Certainly PSPRS appears as an obstacle to many of the “drivers” when it ought to be seen as a promise that should be kept. PLEA and the APA are aggressively navigating with the drivers with real and reasonable solutions (seen any lieutenants or commanders or chiefs testifying at the legislature to protect your pension?). We’re hopeful the final destination will not be in court. Throwing active and retired police officers under the bus is not the definition of a good trip.
But neither is getting car sick in the back with fraternity bags.