Police want unionism display on uniforms

It's a uniform, as in uniformity, as in "the quality or state of being uniform." Or as in "of the same form with others: conforming to one rule or mode."

That's one reason why we endorse the plan of the Portsmouth (NH) Police Commission to enact a "non-adornment policy" for city police uniforms. Such a policy would list the only adornments allowed — or required — on uniforms, most likely a badge, name tag, rank, flag and the Portsmouth Police Department insignia.

The move comes as part of a continuing dispute over whether officers should be allowed to wear union pins on their uniforms.

The commission's position is that not all members of the department are members of the union and, therefore, some officers shouldn't have something on their uniforms that others don't.

This is not a radical concept.

Members of the military certainly can't wear unauthorized insignia on their uniforms. And police departments are structured in much the same way as military units.

Unfortunately, the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board doesn't see it that way.

It ruled that the Portsmouth police union members could wear the pins and rejected an appeal by the city to reconsider.

Labor boards historically are more prone to agree with union grievances than management positions, and that appears to be the case in this instance.

Union and management often disagree on wages and benefits, but this is more political than economic.

If it's OK for the police to make a political statement by wearing a pin on their uniforms, would it also be all right to wear a Hillary for President pin?

Of course not.

The police have every right to be supportive of their union and to wear its pin proudly on their civilian clothing, but not on their uniforms.

When they are on duty and in uniform, they are police officers first and foremost. Union business should be left for a different time.

It remains to be seen what the union's reaction will be when this new policy is enacted. Its president has said they are waiting until the police commissioners "actually do something."

The odds, given the nature of this fight, are that the union will challenge the policy.

If so, we hope a conclusion will be reached quickly.

There has been too much time and expense devoted to this issue of internal politics and a battle of wills.


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