Monday, September 28, 2009

To protect and serve . . . Tegucigalpa?

This is what happened to a former Omaha city councilman who pissed off the police union.

Now the cops have, uh, questions about whether Mayor Jim Suttle is "protecting and serving" them enough to stay in office. And they're polling voters about a recall.

At what point does this start to look like a banana republic on the verge of yet another military coup? And at what point does the city's political leadership stand up, deliver a beisbol bat to Generalissimo Aaron Hanson's chops and strongly suggest that the Omaha police union focus on protecting and serving something other than itself?

AS USUAL, the Omaha World-Herald has the sordid details:
Less than four months into Mayor Jim Suttle’s term, the Omaha police union conducted a poll that gauged whether the public would support a recall of the mayor.

It was just one of several topics in the 25-minute telephone survey conducted this month, said Aaron Hanson, police union president.

The bulk of questions posed to 350 likely voters focused on police services, the police pension system and Omahans’ priorities on city programs.

Hanson declined to release the results on the question about Suttle and other politician-related questions.

Hanson said the police union has taken no position on whether it would support or oppose an effort to remove Suttle from office because no formal recall attempt is under way.

He also declined to say whether the poll was an effort to gain leverage in often-intense police labor contract negotiations, which currently are under way.

But asking the recall question, Hanson said, was fair game.

“The buzz is there,” he said. “There’s been discussion in certain circles.”

Overall, Hanson said, the Omaha Police Officers’ Association “wanted to take the pulse of the city of Omaha on a multitude of issues that are high priority today.”

Suttle had not seen the survey results as of Friday, said Ron Gerard, the mayor’s spokesman.
I HATE IT when people do things so brazen and bullying that it forces me to stand up for Jim Suttle. We can only hope that the police union has at long last badly overplayed its hand:

Some City Council members speculated that the poll was taken to strengthen the union’s bargaining position in the ongoing contract discussions.

Councilwoman Jean Stothert, a Republican, was among those who distanced themselves from any talk of a mayoral recall attempt.

She said she and her council colleagues were given the poll’s findings — minus any questions and responses about politicians.

“It seemed like it would be counterproductive ... to ask about a recall,” Stothert said.

Council President Garry Gernandt, who is a Democrat and a retired police officer, said he thought the survey’s purpose was to measure public opinion about city government priorities and police performance.

Had he known about the inclusion of a recall question, Gernandt said, he would have done what he could “to stop it.”

An official of the Douglas County Republican Party also said he did not want to talk about a recall.

I AM a union kind of guy. I am not, however, a union-thug kind of guy. And the Omaha Police Officers' Association has been nothing if not thuggish -- not to mention brazen -- in its attempts to put local pols under its thumb.

The city is facing hard times. Part of that is due to Omaha cops' having traded pay concessions after the dot-com bust for a contract that let them "spike" their pensions to six figures annually in some cases and retire while still in their 40s.

The cop union's new "poll" certainly makes one wonder whether a little political extortion might have greased the skids for such a sweetheart deal. One we're all going to be paying off for a very long time.

A CITY'S police force is there to serve the public. It does not exist to be served by the public, which owes officers nothing more than a fair wage, fair benefits and thanks for their service.

"Security forces" that see political intimidation and shakedowns as standard operating procedure need to remain firmly in the realm of depressing dispatches from unfortunate foreign backwaters. Bad, bad things need to happen to cops who seek to bring banana-republic politics to an American city hall.

No comments: