This Pencil-Pusher With a Badge Wants to Hit the Streets Again : Police: The union's effort to prevent Chief Gates from assigning desk cops to uniform work gives the whole force a black eye with the public.

Please let it be a Halloween nightmare. Wake me when it's over. The cops can't do police work because their union won't let them.

This is the city. I carry a badge. And a gun. And I make more than $50,000 a year to sit at a desk at Parker Center. Three months ago I wrapped up a tour working the burglary detail at Hollywood. Put a lot of deserving folks behind bars. But I can't do police work any more. Got promoted (more money). Got better hours and a big desk at Parker Center. With an in-box, even.

I have more than 13 years of police experience and just about that many different assignments as a uniformed cop, a detective, a supervisor and a pencil-pusher. So a casual observer might think that I and those like me are ready, willing and able to do whatever police work needed to be done, wherever and whenever our services were required. A lot of us, in fact, pride ourselves on the fact that we can still get out on the street, at age 40-plus, and mess with them that need messing with.

So comes the time that Chief of Police Daryl Gates has the radical idea that in order to get more working cops on the street, he will require a good number of us indoor types to get out of the office a couple of times a month, put on the uniform and do basic police work. Help people. Crush crime. Put bad guys in jail. All that stuff we used to do that motivates every rookie cop who puts on the badge.

Chief, how could you be so naive? Did you really think that well-trained, highly paid desk cops would be allowed to put down their pencils and do . . . police work? Sorry, Chief. Life isn't that simple in 1989.

Our union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, whose motto is "Protecting Those Who Protect and Serve Others," has gone to war with Gates to keep us off the street.

The union even went to court and tried (though it failed) to block Gates from putting hundreds of extra officers on the streets tonight to prevent a repeat of last year's Halloween near-mayhem in the Hollywood area.

Well, union, though the benefits you have negotiated for us over the years are appreciated, I'm not feeling real protected right now. And a lot of my friends aren't, either. And the public . . . well, you union folks are supposed to protect the cops, not the public, so what do you care?

The past few days I've listened. In the elevator, in the hallway, out in the woods at a tactical training day. What I hear is a little grumbling about the chief's plan and the words he chose to chastise those who don't want police work to interfere with their personal lives. But mostly I hear, "The union blew this one."

I can't speak for all non-uniformed cops. Some of them really do have jobs that are so critical (or so undercover) that it would make no sense for them to participate in an occasional uniformed assignment.

And I won't speak for those few who have the attitude that "they can't do this to me: I don't even have a uniform any more." (Never mind that every officer is required to maintain a uniform. Never mind that the Los Angeles Police Protective League negotiated into our contract a tax-free check paid each June to every officer to maintain uniform and equipment, said check having been $550 this year.)

My union directors have decided that the chief is in violation of some administrative law about wages, hours and working conditions when he orders police officers to do police work.

Did the chief say we have to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week? Did he say we can't have meal breaks? Did he say we have to work overtime for free? No. He just said we have to put on the uniforms we're supposed to have, and go out and do what we swore to do when we raised our right hands. For that, our union gets a court order to stop him, the rationale being that the chief didn't consult the union first.

I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for me. Attention, union: This stinks.

Any able-bodied, able-minded, badge-carrying, gun-carrying police officer who chooses to hide behind a bunch of misguided union officials and their lawyers moaning about requirements to "meet and confer" before I go out to do police work, will do so without my support. And stand by while the public burns our behinds next time we ask for more benefits.

This is worse than a nightmare. It's a professional embarrassment.

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