This is a follow up question which I asked here. There were a lot of great answers, the consensus seems to be that police unions could be outright dissolved or a new version of unions could form where the level of "control" or "influence" over the police department itself could be put to check, without being in breach of democratic rights.

My question is what are the pros and cons of having police unions?


Banning police unions was one of the demands which were put forward by the Black Lives Movement. I understand banning the police union would have some form of negative political backlash especially since as pointed out in the comments, that this was not suggested by either the dems or the GOP. But my question is if it would yield net positive or negative results for the general population and disregarding any political fallout regarding whether this would generally be perceived as infamous move as in the case of banning the union. The reason for asking this question is that history has a lot of examples where grassroots movement demanded something which was not suggested by either democrats or GOP but was eventually codified into a law or a bill. I am not saying BLM could, should or would just that if banning police unions would bring about positive or a negative result to the majority of the population.

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    The only objective answer that can be offered is "positive in some aspects, negative in others". Anything more definitive than that will be a matter of opinion, making it off-topic on this site.
    – Joe C
    Jun 14, 2020 at 19:15
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    I understand what you are saying but any answer in political science is about bringing maximum good to maximum number of people. My question is if such a policy would be net positive or negative.results. Jun 14, 2020 at 19:20
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    @newcoder I have changed your question to compare pros and cons, instead of "should..." which is clearly asking for opinions (offtopic on this and many other network sites).
    – Alexei
    Jun 15, 2020 at 4:39
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    "Pro's and Con's" from whose perspective? The state? The politicians? The law-abiding citizens? The criminal citizens? The minority citizens? The majority citizens? The police officers? The police administration? The union representatives? The police dogs? A "pro" for some of these groups can be a "con" for others.
    – Philipp
    Jun 15, 2020 at 9:04
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    I'm not sure about this question. The pros are all the obvious for-union things (better pay, compensation, working conditions); the antis are all sociopolitical quandaries about the implicit creation of a police state. It's hard to weigh fairly, though I suppose I could try... Jun 18, 2020 at 4:25

1 Answer 1


The question must surely be "pros and cons for whom"?

Presumably the question is not asking for an analysis of the pros and cons of worker unions in general, but specifically the pros and cons for the state in permitting police unions.

The main function which police unions perform, is to allow the police to battle the state in an organised and disciplined way, and to allow such battles to occur at a lower level of pressure than if the state were using maximum repressive force against unorganised individuals.

If grievances are routinely unaired, a selection bias tends to start to operate, where an organisation begins to consist of those who are corrupt, degenerate, or of the least competence. These qualities are often not visible to outsiders.

At the limit there could be an unseen transition from a conservative to a revolutionary mindset in which police officers begin to side with those who are against the established order, and either begin to engage in wildcat strikes, or even defect during crucial confrontations with the populace.

As well as the obvious impairments which corruption, degeneracy, and incompetence inflict on a law enforcement function, the risk of wildcat strikes and defections are obviously the most grave. When the latter occur, widespread lawlessness and property destruction can be anticipated (particularly in societies where social cohesion is low and tension is already great).

Therefore, the main "pro" of police unionisation is to maintain the organisational health of the police force, and avoid police strikes. Whether having a police force that is solid and loyal to the state is a pro or a con for the rest of society, largely depends on how they see their own position in relation to the police and the state.

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    "avoid police strikes": That's kind of strange, since normally on of the main roles of a union is to enable effective striking if the workers need to. Is there evidence that police unions actually reduce strikes, or do you just mean that they replace wildcat strikes with more organized, official strikes?
    – divibisan
    Jun 18, 2020 at 20:14
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    @divibisan - For essential government services, while unionization is allowed, work actions are generally banned, by law, in the USA. Jun 18, 2020 at 20:59
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    @divibisan, usually police are disallowed from striking by law. Ordinary employers may push unionised workforces to strike in order to engage in bargaining, or in order to smash the union, but remember for the state a police strike is the equivalent to the police dropping a nuclear bomb on the powers that be. The union in this case is performing an early warning function, by releasing blasts of visible discontent into the public arena for political consideration and resolution, before it accumulates into organisational corrosion, occupational exodus, and the fearsome wildcat strike.
    – Steve
    Jun 18, 2020 at 21:34

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