In many fields, professional bodies will vocally condemn members who commit misconduct. For example, medical associations, learned societies or unions will seek to end the careers of members who commit fraud. A teaching union may strike for higher salaries, but not to support a teacher who punches a student.
However, when a police officer commits misconduct in a clear and documented manner it seems that often police representatives (such as unions or department captains) will actively support them, and resist calls for them to be fired or prosecuted.
Some examples to illustrate:
- According to Reuters, it is common practise for US police unions to negotiate contracts that erase disciplinary records and protect abusive officers from being fired
- St Louis police union vocal opposition to attempts by prosecutor Kim Gardener to set up an independent misconduct watchdog.
- Minneapolis police union president Lt. Bob Kroll called city politicians 'despicable' in response to criticism for the killing of George Floyd.
- Buffalo police union president said his union stood "100%" behind officers who aggressively pushed over and then failed to assist a 75 year old man, causing brain injury
If I was a police officer, I would surely want all those abusing their power attacking innocent people to be fired immediately. By staying in the force, they are harming my own reputation by association, and making my own job more difficult. I would not want my union to defend these people.
Some possible speculative answers:
- A high number of police officers are at some point accused (falsely or correctly) of misconduct, causing them to be supportive of anti-discipline unions
- Union chiefs support brutal/aggressive policing for cultural reasons (e.g. racism)
- Local laws or political institutions create a confrontational dynamic between police/union chiefs and communities/local government, preventing constructive agreement on disciplinary issues
- Most union chiefs do condemn members guilty of misconduct, but these do not receive media coverage.