Qualified Immunity and Legal Representation Discussion
Qualified immunity and legal representation are popular topics being discussed in the news, with our members, and within our office. POAM President Jim Tignanelli explains the importance of both in the latest podcast episode. Listen to the full 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.
POAM President Jim Tignanelli
We’ve talked some time about the importance of paying attention to who we vote for. And we’ve talked about endorsements and different candidates. But in this particular year, which has been an odd year all the way around and it looks like it’s not going to go away, that elected officials now are creating laws or they’re responding to adversarial groups or supportive groups on how police officers treat the public.
And so those bills, which we’ve talked about qualified immunity and different things, are all very, very important. And knowing what a public elected official is thinking on those should be a key thing to the questioning you have when you’re determining whether or not you’re going to support that candidate. It does matter. It’s a party thing to some extent, but it’s a personal thing, too. So don’t let party interfere with what you’re thinking as much as the person you’re talking to, but press them on that. Find out if they’re supportive. These moves to defund police, to disband police, or to change how budgets are done can be a big thing, and it might not go away for a long time. Watch those candidates.
Now, that brings me to thinking that why a big union? Sometimes people say, “Oh, the POAM, it’s so big, it just forgets about you.” And I remind them, I’ve got a seven-man group in Imlay City, a three-person group in Clay Township, and yes, a hundred and some person group in Ann Arbor, but they’re all the same. Every officer that we have is an officer or a deputy. And so what happens to them is it doesn’t matter what size group they come from with POAM – every one of our members are individuals that need representation.
The influence that we have in Lansing and in Washington D.C., matters because our size and the fact that we’re in two peninsulas and 83 counties means that every elected official was wondering, “Can I get POAM’s endorsement?” We get literally hundreds of requests for endorsements. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s the truth. And that goes from presidential right on down to a board of commissioner or a board of trustees or a city’s councilperson. School boards, even. We hear from school board members. We do take it seriously. If we don’t show it to you on our web or some other place, call the office or call your local business agent. Let me know because what we want to do is make sure that we vet these people and it matters. When we give an endorsement, we do it with a lot of thought.
The other thing that’s become more prevalent now, and it runs all along with this qualified immunity and these different elected officials, is the propensity for local officials to want to charge the police officer with a crime for things that heretofore were disciplinary issues. Now, when you get yourself in a jam, not just do they want to suspend you or terminate you, they run pending parallel charges with you and the prosecutors. Again, an important endorsement that we make.
The prosecutors are very able to push criminal charges through under that law enforcement officer. It’s happening all the time. We have one of our four attorneys that’s in court nearly every day just on the representation of police officers charged with crimes. And we find now that it’s become common to want to charge an officer with some assaultive-type behavior, but then to follow it up with misconduct in office.
This is a bill that’s been around for decades, but suddenly it’s become a popular, one-size-fits-all for police officers, and that’s a five-year felony. In Michigan, if you’re convicted of a felony or plead guilty to a felony, you are unable to become certified as a police officer. You lose any certification you have. They’re throwing that felony out there like apple pie. It’s everywhere that you see.
And that brings us to thinking about the criminal plan, the criminal representation that POAM offers. Some unions will offer you a contact service or three hours with an attorney somewhere, whereas POAM for $5 a month will represent you right on through the trial. And we are busy representing police officers. At one time, it was a civil plan, or not a civil plan, but plans where you had problems at home or drunk driving or assault and stuff like that that occurred off duty, which we also cover. But now these officers are being charged with crimes for literally trying to do their job, maybe messing up somewhere, but trying to do their job and that civil criminal plan that we have, the extended criminal representation plan that we have is incomparable.
And that’s a part of a big union. That’s a part of a union that pays attention to the small details, and our attorneys are on-call 24/7, 365. Take advantage of that. I think it’s worth looking into. Contact your business agent or look at POAM.net because there is a big article on it there, too.
I want to thank everybody for tuning into another edition of the POAM Podcast radio show. I want to remind you that each and every month you can find every single podcast online on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Just search for POAM (or our full name). They’re also available for download or for live listen on our website. Visit us at poam.net. Get on our newsletter and send us all of your comments and suggestions for future shows.
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