Alex Kahn: Police union actions undermine openness

Published: 6/26/2020 5:42:33 PM

The Northampton City Council on June 18 voted to reduce the police department’s budget by 10%. The council listened to hours of testimony from residents on troubling experiences they’ve had with the police.

They heard compelling arguments for employing alternatives to police in matters of substance abuse, mental health and school discipline. And they began to question the double standard by which, in times of financial hardship, many city departments are told to tighten their belts and deal with cuts, while the NPD continues to receive full funding.

Ultimately, the council took the action that their constituents were demanding of them, recognizing that our country is undergoing a paradigm shift as white America finally begins to reckon with the systemic abuses our system of policing facilitates.

Of course, not everyone is in favor of defunding the police. In response to the vote to defund, two members of the NPD, Officer Joshua Wallace and Sgt. Brian Letzeisen have each submitted Open Meeting Law violation complaints on behalf of their unions in an attempt to invalidate the vote to defund.

These complaints show typical police union strong-arm tactics — if the winds aren’t blowing in your favor, abuse legal protections to get your way. One of the union complaints goes so far as to call for subpoena of city councilors’ email and phone records, as if this routine (yet unfavorable to him) city business was tantamount to a criminal act.

This small action is telling of the larger issue of how police unions, under the guise of labor rights, have served to shield cops from accountability. Their actions also undermine the supposed openness to change that Chief Jody Kasper and Mayor David Narkewicz have promised us in adapting to this new political moment.

Alex Kahn


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Northampton, MA 01061


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