Conservative Ross Douthat acknowledges a nationwide problem:
Last December, my colleague David Brooks noted that police unions are resisting change on every issue where police reform might be contemplated, from body cameras for officers to reversing the militarization of local law enforcement. But after the untimely death of Freddie Gray, no issue looms larger than the need to discipline, suspend and fire police officers who don’t belong on the streets — and the obstacles their unions put up to that all-too-necessary process.
The cases from all over the country where unions and arbitration boards have reinstated abusive cops make for an extraordinary and depressing litany. Baltimore is no exception. Last fall, The Baltimore Sun reported on the police commissioner’s struggle to negotiate enough authority to quickly remove and punish his own cops, and the union’s resistance to swift action and real oversight persists.
What we know so far about the officer who first pursued Mr. Gray (his history of mental health issues, in particular) suggests that he might have benefited from being eased into a different line of work. This issue is particularly pressing if you believe that some of the aggressive police tactics criticized in the wake of Mr. Gray’s death, and Eric Garner’s in Staten Island — the stress on quality-of-life and “broken windows” policing, the focus on misdemeanors and disorderly conduct — have played a significant role in America’s declining crime rate and our much-safer cities.