Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pass the trash

I supervised union employees from 1995 until 2013.

95% of those employees are people I respected. They came to work every day. They did their jobs. They were (generally) pleasant to be around.

5% of those employees were a burr in everybody else's knickers. That five percent created more work for me, as a supervisor, than the other 95%.

The first "discipline" I was involved with took five hours of my time.

Later "disciplines" I was able to whip out in three hours, or so.

Every discipline was invariably "challenged". Often, my management would roll-over and expunge the discipline. The miscreant would be back with back-pay and a shit-eating smile. My management informed me "We got something we needed from the Union by erasing your discipline."

I saw 3-to-5 hours of my life wasted and my authority destroyed.

The Pareto Principle
Pareto was an Italian economist.

Pareto was the first person to document the idea of the significant few and the insignificant many. I think his original observation involved people who paid taxes. He postulated that a small number (say 20%) invariably paid the largest part (usually claimed to be 80%) of the taxes.

An industrial problem-solver stumbled upon the concept. He noticed that a small number of causes were responsible for a large percentage of the defects.

Sometimes the Pareto Principle is called the 80:20 rule.

Pass the Trash
My dad worked in education.

Teachers, in Michigan, have strong unions.

Some teachers were not able to do their jobs.

Some teachers were very inappropriate.

Some teachers were dangerous (shop, chemistry, physical education).

Every year, teachers who had "a problem" in one building were sent to a new building. It was called "passing the trash". Many, many times it was the same teachers who had to be moved.

Black Live Matter
Do Black Lives Matter more than Organized Labor?

Because that is where the chain of inquiry ends. Do the Byzantine contracts and Union bosses-backroom deals get a dose of transparency? Do the citizens that police are supposedly protecting matter?

Back to Pareto
If every police officer is an independent process, then it is reasonable to presume that some/most are not a problem. They may occasionally/rarely stumble into an unfortunately situation, but that is not the norm.

On the other hand, there are a few officers (maybe 5%?) who are lightening rods for "complaints".

The thing about "complaints" is that complaints represent a very small slice of the problems generated by a given process. Bridgestone Tire Company recognized this and postulated something that became known as The Bridgestone Law of Quality.

One of the auto plants in town (Lansing General Motors, Plant 2), one that I never worked in, had a unique contract.

Supervision was allowed to issue discipline based on "patterns". For example, in a typical United Auto Workers contract the employee might be allowed to miss five days a year and as long as they called in an hour before starting time there was nothing the supervisor could do about it.

At LGMP2, the supervisor could issue discipline the third Friday the employee called in. You see, three makes a pattern.

If every-other missed day was a Friday, then the supervisor could issue discipline. There was a pattern.

Addressing Black Lives Matter in an effective way
If you don't change anything, then nothing is going to change.

If I ran the universe, I would allow people supervising police to put individual officers on-notice based on "patterns".

I would designate one person to handle the administrative burden of officers who are put on-notice for issues like excessive force. That way, supervisors (who already have a full work day) would not be tempted to look the other way because they don't want to deal with the extra five hours of work.

At the state level, I would pass legislation that indemnified agencies who black-balled "trash" lest they be passed from one agency to the next to the next. Because what happens now? When an officer starts getting too much heat in one police organization they move to another agency.

And what happens to the organization where he/she currently works if they do not give him/her a glowing recommendation? They get stuck with the toxic officer and are likely face a lawsuit for defaming the toxic officer's reputation.

An alternative would be to have the equivalent of the sex-offender registration list. Any officer who receives a complaint for excessive force (or something similar) gets it recorded in a database that is accessible to the public. If an agency hires an officer with multiple entries in the database...well, they get to explain it if that officer has issues in their community.

And, as long as I am running the universe, I would have a chat with every union official.

Union officials are legally required to represent the people who pay their dues. They do, however, have some latitude in deciding how aggressively they represent them.

Union members who are "written-up" for driving fork-trucks while drunk get a very minimal representation. Operators of power equipment who are drunk imperil other dues-paying union members. It is a go-through-the-motions representation.

My chat would point out that overly aggressive "representation" of abusive police officers results in targets being painted on the back of every other (95%) police officer in the field.

Some issues are worth fighting management about. Some are not. I submit that the system is broken if 2% of the officers in law enforcement are not redirected out of that profession every least until the bad apples are purged.

Gresham's Law
Gresham's Law states that bad money drives out good money. If your local currency is debauched, then people load their good money (Swiss Francs, US Dollars and so on) into suitcases and move it out of the country before officials can confiscate it.

It also applies to organizations. Bad teachers drive out good teachers. Bad officers drive out good officers.

Either police administration, and their partners in the Unions, get their arms around the issue or they will be sitting on a powder keg in a lightning storm.

Link to a follow-up post


  1. Very well put Joe. However I think 2% is a bit low especially in that cop business. In my old age looking back I think it should be a bit higher. 10% at least. As a owner/manager of a business I became of the Pareto Rule about 30 or so years ago. It really impressed me as the 20% making 80% of the money was totally in line with my experience. Then I inverted it and realized that 20% of my customers gave me, and my staff, 80% of the hassles. So I got rid of them using various ways, being more or less direct. What I found is that employee attitude improved, production went up, my life got easier, and oddly enough gross and net income also rose due to more select customers that we wanted and our effort being more effectively directed. All because we provided better service and did a better job due to getting rid of the problem 20%. The cops should do the same and their relations with the community would be much better and they would be happier.---ken.

    1. If the base-rate of "bad" is 5%, then they would be gone in 3 years.

      Bad ones would keep percolating in. Some people become law officers for all the right reasons. Others, sadly, for all the bad reasons.

      2% is a bigger exit ramp than currently exists. I am not married to any particular number, but I know the right answer is bigger than zero.

    2. I would like to make a correction. I have a problem with the small comment space as full sentences are hard to proof read with my old eyes. And old brain. The last sentence should read ... The cops should do the same with 20% of their officers and their relations with the community would be much better and they and the community would be happier. ---ken

    3. I used to do business with a mortgage company in one of the Detroit suburbs and the boss there told me that he fired 10% of his staff every year. He paid above average so there was a waiting line to get hired there. He said that got rid of the 5% that was going soft and got rid of the 5% he shouldn't have hired last year. I don't agree with his technique but I see the logic. I admit that I sometimes kept employees longer than I should have but firing people was always hard for me. A flaw in my management I admit.--ken

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  3. Boils down to common sense and personal responsibility which is sadly lacking in a figure way above 5% or 20% of any demographic. Those same persons as cops or teachers, someone with authority if fired for incompetency or cause should be blacklisted in that profession for life

  4. Or just fire the sumbitch and publish the documentation of WHY they were fired.

    1. The supervisors in Minneapolis, and in many other large, northern cities, are also represented by unions.

      They get around the conflict of interest by having different contracts for the two groups. The contract for the supervisors is found here:

      One hand washes the other.


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