What are Police Unions and why do they matter?
Police Unions have hijacked the public safety policy and budget-making process.
Police Unions are the best-funded and most organized opposition to criminal justice reform.
The term “Police Unions” is a placeholder for the nearly 12,000 local, regional, and national professional associations, fraternities, labor unions, policy and advocacy groups, and electoral formations controlled by members of all forms of law enforcement - police officers, sheriffs, state troopers, detention & correctional officers, probation officers, border & immigration agents.
Police Unions act as law enforcement political cartels that have long wielded significant power over public safety and criminal justice policy and public narratives.
Over the past 50 years, Police Unions have built and leveraged the political power to increase criminalization by promoting "Broken Windows" policing, supporting creation of gang databases, championing the war on drugs, lobbying for mandatory minimums & sentence enhancements, and driving the criminalization and enforcement of immigration.
All of this has been done at the taxpayers’ expense, as Police Unions have exponentially increased the cost of policing through wages, pensions, & benefits packages that outpace comparable professions, with similar risks.
From bail reform and decriminalization to oversight and public safety alternatives, Police Unions have consistently out-resourced, outperformed, and outlasted the efforts of the reform movement, policy advocates, and legal strategies across the nation.
This is because Police Unions have built the sustainable institutional structures to not only block, weaken, and roll back reform but drive expansions of policing, immigration enforcement, and mass incarceration through Copaganda in the media, electoral endorsements and ballot measures, as well as, extensive lobbying.
“Over the past five years, as demands for reform have mounted in the aftermath of police violence in cities . . . Police Unions have emerged as one of the most significant roadblocks to change. The greater the political pressure for reform, the more defiant the Unions often are in resisting it—with few city officials, including liberal leaders, able to overcome their opposition.”
Advocates, organizers, and funders have learned from experience that criminal justice reform requires a long-term strategic solutions that uproots the power of Police Unions and other reactionary forces. However, while it is a nationwide problem, the decentralized nature of the opposition is shaped by local political ecosystems.
The Democratizing Justice Initiative was developed in response to an expressed need, from funders and field leaders alike, for greater capacity to help funders know where and how to invest across a growing ecosystem of community-based organizations and national partners engaged in diverse strategies to erode the power of police unions in order to unlock larger, sustainable wins in the criminal justice system.
The Democratizing Justice Initiative is funder and funder advisor.
DJI's mission is to move money that builds a stronger field of practitioners, generates and scales effective strategies, and develops a robust centralized supporting ecosystem in order to deliver tangible wins against police unions that unlock opportunities for criminal justice reform and public safety alternatives.
We are motivated by a simple, democratic vision: communities, rather than Police Unions, should hold the power and resources to shape public safety.
Democratizing Justice Initiative engages, educates, and connects like-minded donors and foundations around the impact of Police Unions on criminal justice reform and the intersections with other issue areas such as, Health, Housing, Economic Justice, and others.
DJI provides funders opportunities for aligned and collaborative investments with a growing number of partners.