In this episode of the POAM Podcast, President Jim Tignanelli shares insights into the union’s 2020 Endorsements. Listen to the full podcast episode now, or read the transcription below.
It’s the Police Officer’s Association of Michigan Podcast radio show. Recorded live in the studios in Redford, Michigan. POAM is a full-service labor organization formed to provide every labor-related service from negotiations, grievance processing, legal, and legislative representation to Act 312 Arbitrations.
Audio from President Trump Campaign Stop in Michigan
“I will always support the heroes of law enforcement. I was very honored to receive the endorsement of the Police Officers Association of Michigan. Where are they? Where are they? They’re here someplace. Where are they? Thank you, fellas. That’s really nice, I’ll tell you. That’s an honor. I have to be honest, I got it from Florida, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, but Michigan is Michigan. Thank you.
I don’t think there’s any law enforcement officer that is against us. What is our poll number? 99? I know they had 365,000 at one group and they got a unanimous vote. I said, ‘That’s pretty good.’ How can you go the other way? You people are fantastic and we love you. Thank you.”
POAM President Jim Tignanelli
People often ask us why we get involved in politics. What the political leanings are of the POAM? And I’m very proud to say that, and I believe both parties would acknowledge us, that we are nonpartisan. Whereas some organizations say it in the MEA, the UAW and some of the others are very along party lines. They always endorsed the same party. That’s never been the case with POAM because we represent members in 83 counties. We represent members in 550 communities. So consequently, we don’t have an all-Democrat crowd or an all-Republican crowd. And because votes and legislation are done in Lansing and in Washington by members that are elected there, we need to have both parties endorse us. You have 110 state reps. If you can’t get 56 votes, you don’t get anything done. And it’s pretty rare that you’re going to be able to get all of either party.
So we have over the years been one of the highest, if not the highest, percentage of winning candidates and that’s because we have both parties. Obviously, in this state, you’re going to have 50% if you’re going all one party or the other, but we’ve always done the party that was best for our members, for our type of work. After all, that’s what we do. And we are very highly demanded up there in Lansing and in Washington, DC. They want to know what the POAM is doing and I’m proud of that. We’ve grown from a small group of people to be one that actually has a powerful voice there.
So what happened back in 2016? Because people are now asking me, “Well, how do you decide to endorse, say candidate John James, or the reelection of the president, Donald J. Trump?” And I’ll take you back to 2016 when the candidates were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who was far and wide assumed to be the winner. And he had already gone through a primary of 20 some other Republicans, mostly elected people, governors, senators, congressmen, and here he was. We all knew him from television. So why did that happen? Well, we watched it, we listened to it, we listened to the debates, we listened to the campaigns, we listened to what they said. And on the other side, you had quite a battle going on too with the further left group of Democrats challenging Hillary Clinton. So it was very interesting, unlike most years in the past where you had a declared winner in to start. This was one where you actually had choices to make.
And we watched it very closely and I’m proud, and sometimes it creates a disturbance in our office, but we actually have a very bipartisan office, unlike what you might expect. We have some very healthy debates about who we’re going to endorse, who we think about, who we like or don’t like. And it’s been that way for years. And I’ll go start with the Donald Trump endorsement, which looking back, we were the first statewide organization and at that time, I believe the only law enforcement organization nationally to endorse Donald J. Trump. We did it at our convention in May of 2016. So that was pretty early in the process. He was declared to be the Republican candidate but it was still pretty early in the process. And he actually did a video for us, that we played at the convention that year, thanking us.
And I thought that that was interesting but I want you to know where this came from because we do have members that are very Democrat and members that are very Republican. It’s not an all or nothing. It’s not like I said, some other professions out there. We have people on both sides too. So it’s important that we do what’s best for our members, even though it might anger some of them. And in this particular case, Hillary Clinton had said far and wide, and this message was declared right to us, that she thought what needed to be done when they’re asking what can they do for us. Well, she didn’t really ask us that. What she said is, “What you need to do is we need to change the culture of policing.” And I remember wondering what that meant exactly. And as it turns out, it was the line I haven’t forgotten was, “It’s unfortunate that some people are more afraid of a police car in their neighborhood than they are of a strange car.”
And man, I grew up on the east side of Detroit. I don’t remember ever fearing a police car more than a strange car. I wasn’t always afraid of a strange car, but I never was afraid of the police car. And I thought that was odd because it seemed to me that the onus was being put on the police to change what they do, not for the legislature to get involved, not for anybody else to do it, but that it was our fault that people were that way. And while I know some people have had bad experiences with the police, let’s look at the logic. Most of the time in your life, most 40-year-old people, if they’ve ever had a conversation with a law enforcement officer, it was when they came out of the mall and their car was gone, or they came home and their back door was kicked in, or their mom and dad got into a fight or they were fighting with their brother or alcohol was involved and there was a bad experience.
Or you’re driving 40 (m.p.h.) in a 25 and you get those angry red and blue lights behind your car. So in your lifetime, if that’s been your only experience with the police, it’s pretty hard to go back and say, “Yeah, jeez, that guy was really nice.” I hope he was nice, but it might not have been a good day for you. So we don’t get to change those things. We don’t get to change that part of the culture. So for us, when we met with Donald Trump, his question was, “What can I do for you?” And he’d made it quite clear that he was a law enforcement supporter, that he was a supporter of our military, was going to rebuild the military. And most of our members, a lot of them, are active military, either in the national guard or in the reserves. And many have been deployed and some are right now.
And because of that, the military to us is an arm of the police and the police is an arm of the military. We’re actually all trying to make it so that you can rest carefully in your home and you can play with your kids in the park, whether it be fighting overseas or fighting in this country or being in the neighborhood when you need us. So we had a lot in common and what he wanted to do was the previous President had taken away surplus military equipment from us, where everybody thought that those armored personnel vehicles were actually armed, they were not. They didn’t have guns. They were used to save people’s lives. They were used to protect officers and protect people. Those all got taken away from us. We had literally hundreds of officers north of St. Lapeer County that got rifles that were surplus military rifles to carry in their cars.
These are guys that patrol 700 square miles by themself many evenings. So they have rifles now and those were all taken away. Those were given by George W. Bush and they were taken away by the next President. And I have to say that Donald J. Trump says those need to be restored. Those are things that are sitting there in surplus and if you can use them and you can use them properly, you should have them. Back into the Gary Peters, John James saying, “Well, we go back to 16. John James didn’t run in 16. He ran in 18. But Gary Peters was our Senator and I want to tell you, we liked Gary Peters and we’ve known Gary Peters for, I’m going to say 20 years or more. And we supported him in many local races. He’s a Michigan guy. He’s actually doesn’t come from far from our office. So he’s a guy that we’ve always met in Washington two, three times a year, always been welcome there, and like him as a person.
But what seems to have happened now is this concern about qualified immunity, the concern about police unions and how police work is done. Again, it becomes the police department’s fault. So I put a thing on the website that asked Senator Stabenow, Senator Peters, and candidate James, where they stood on some of these issues. And without going to details on the others, you can find their answers on the poam.net. John James was clearly a guy that supported what we do. He doesn’t want to cover up what we do. He doesn’t want to make bad people, good people. He wants to do the right thing. But this is a guy that understands the chain of command. He understands the need to do with the job. And he was clearly on the side of the law enforcement.
And back in 2018, when he ran against Senator Stabenow, we took a lot of hits from our members because we didn’t endorse him then and we did endorse Senator Stabenow, which I think just helps you understand the difference between our union at some others. But being involved is very, very important in Lansing and in Washington, DC. And I feel like POAM is the voice of Michigan law enforcement. And I think that all elected candidates would agree with that. So it’s very important that we do it. Standing in the middle of the road will just get you run down. We don’t do that. We make decisions. There are tough calls and we know we risk sometimes making some people angry. We’re just glad you’re watching. We’re glad you’re reading and we are hopeful that you know that we have your interests in mind.
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