Three Police Unions, Three Different Messages

I was struck this week by widely-published stories about how three police unions communicated with their communities.

The first story came from San Jose, and involved an “open letter” written by San Jose POA President Paul Kelly to the community. Kelly framed the letter around a chance encounter with two young African-American men, his decision to interact with them, and the results. In the middle of that frame, Kelly made his key point:

“San Jose Police Department is one of the most progressive in the nation.  It is also one of the best trained.  But our officers need to be prepared to continue to learn and to interact with our citizens in a way that best engenders mutual trust.  I believe that the citizens also owe their police officers a commitment.  Citizens should challenge our police officers with questions and they should demand answers.  But equally, citizens must be prepared to listen to the facts, the accurate statistics, and understand why we police officers conduct ourselves in the way that we do.

“Relationships are a two-way street.  The one between police and citizens is no different.  We WILL listen, respond, and come half way or more if need be.  I ask San Jose and all the groups fighting on behalf of minorities and victims of hate to NOT put your ‘Hands Up’ but put your ‘Hands Out’.  Reach out to us for introductions and a handshake to start the conversation and we will do the same!”

The second story came from Louisville, where FOP Lodge 614 was dealing with protests about a police shooting last week. President Dave Mutchler published an open letter to citizens. As this excerpt shows, Mutchler’s letter was mostly directed at the protestors:

“Your flawed logic and lack of reason regarding events that occur in our society makes you appear stunningly inept. Let me help you. All citizens in Louisville, regardless of race, creed, color, gender or national origin have the SAME rights and responsibilities. No one gets a separate set of rules. Politicians may fear you and your tactics-we do not. You and those you enable must abide by the law and comply with law enforcement like everyone else. If you refuse to comply or even worse, attack a law enforcement officer, expect to be met with force.

“Your ridiculous demands and anti-law enforcement attitude has reached a level that is unacceptable. You want our attention? Well you have it. Consider yourselves on notice. We challenge you to have the same integrity and dedication to serving the community that you say you seek in the police. We already have it. You need to get it.”

The third story came from Miami, where the Dade County PBA was dealing with protests against statements made by President John Rivera that linked the Mayor’s push for body cameras to a desire to garner black votes. When 40 or so protesters showed up with signs and the media at the PBA offices, Rivera stood by his comments, but also ordered bottled water and pizza and tried to deliver them to the protesters. The protest was apparently short-lived, however (the necessary media shots had been taken), and the protesters were getting into a van by the time Rivera delivered the pizzas, with a picture showing him with a smile on his face carrying multiple boxes of pizza. No word on whether any pizza was actually accepted by the protesters.

So there you have it. Three cities in three very different parts of the country, three police unions, and three different approaches.