What’s Wrong with Police Unions?

Despite broad support for unionization on the political left, police unions have become public enemy number one for academics and activists concerned about race and police violence.

By Benjamin Levin

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This Article examines the strange case of police unions and asks how they are (and are not) representative of U.S. unionism. More pointedly, this Article asks what increasingly common critiques of police unions should mean for policing reform and the future of public-sector unionism. In an effort to construct a more nuanced picture of police unions’ functions, I situate the role of police unions within two disparate scholarly debates: (1) the literature on policing reform; and (2) the literature on public sector unions. How are police unions different from other public-sector unions, and how might critiques and defenses of police unions apply to other public-sector unions?