We got big troubles now, citizens.
The cops and the firefighters are into it, big time, over political endorsements, unions, “real police” and for lack of a better phrase, “who is speaking for who?”
I may have this wrong but here is my understanding of this mess. Local 735 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers has officially endorsed three candidates for the East Ridge Municipal Election. Those candidates are Jim Bethune for mayor and Jacky Cagle and Denny Manning for city council. Union representatives – both local and national – interviewed candidates and made their pick. Photos of endorsed candidates posing with some cops have been splashed all over social media.
Those endorsements, ostensibly, are going to translate into votes and “The Ticket,” Bethune, Cagle and Manning, will be swept into office. Oh, they will do great things, won’t they? First order of business, I’m sure, is to show ERPD Chief J.R. Reed the door and install a bigger, better, friendlier-to-the-force chief.
But wait a minute now. Sources tell me that there have been defections from Local 735 and the number of union members over the last few months has dwindled. Furthermore, the cops who never joined the union aren’t happy about the perception that the entire department is solidly behind Bethune, Cagle and Manning. What we’re left with here is an unhappy police department, to put it mildly.
It gets better. City Councilman Brian Williams, who is running for mayor, countered the IBPO endorsement by printing up some T-shirts, and presumably distributing them, that say “Police Officers for Brian Williams.”
That didn’t set well with the Local 735 folks. They put out a statement on social media denouncing the move as an attempt to “hijack” their endorsement.
Let’s add some gas to this firestorm. The firefighters, who have no union representation, seem to be in the Williams camp. They got some T-shirts of their own saying “Firefighters for Williams.”
Now we’ve got cops bickering with cops, and firefighters bickering with cops. It appears the East Ridge Fire and Police Services Center is a house divided.
That divided house has Jim Bethune’s fingerprints all over it. It was a brilliant plan to capitalize on dissent within the ERPD. Though it’s been categorically denied, I’m speculating that all Jim had to do to get the endorsement was to promise the union that once he’s elected he would oust Chief Reed and replace him with the Local 735’s choice. Considering that Jim lost a council seat in the 2016 election to Williams by 50 votes, the union endorsement could be worth at least a couple hundred votes and potentially secure him the elected position that he covets.
And let’s be aware of the fact that Local 735 has community support from another strong constituency – the East Ridge Citizens for Property Rights group. It’s conceivable that as goes Local 735 so goes the property rights folks. There’s another 400 votes, perhaps.
It’s brilliant, really. But like most things Bethune it’s prone to backfire.
If Bethune becomes mayor he will get sideways – sooner rather than later – with the police department, resulting in discord. If Williams becomes mayor Chief Reed just may end up staying in the position of “top cop” until he retires, resulting in discord.
Either way, the next mayor will have to pick up the pieces of a public safety department that has been used as a political pawn.