Police Unions’ Development in the US


In the United States, much attention is paid to the development of police unions and the necessity to detect the rights of ordinary employees and police administrators. Labor relations reflected external but not internal roles of police executives (Cordner, 2013). It was required to promote some changes and improve the relationships that could be developed between organizations, private employers, and employees. In this paper, the role of police unions for American workers will be evaluated through giving clear definitions, describing the reasons for unionization, and discussing unions’ growth in the southern and northeastern parts of the United States.

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Development of police unions

Police unions turned out to be a decision many communities were waiting for. A police union is defined as a well-organized interest group in terms of which financial, political, and organizational issues can be discussed to increase the membership roles of public employees (Marks & Sklansky, 2014). In the middle of the 20th century, the US population was challenged by some events that fostered the changes in public-sector collective bargaining, including the demands of labor organizations, the growth of legal barriers, and unfair salaries (Swanson, Territo, & Taylor, 2016).

In the 1930s, several strikes and concerns were raised to prove police violence. Instead of discussing common interests and roles in the development of society, police officers supported the idea of unionization. President Kennedy played a significant role in police unions’ development by legalizing these organizations with limited collective bargaining rights (Swanson et al., 2016). Though police officers gained powers and possibilities to control human actions, many of them felt isolated in their intentions to control crimes because of the existing public hostility and unpredictable outcomes of public strikes and revolutions.

The government understood that many police officers could not neglect the importance of such unions but continue focusing on their wages’ improvements and social respect. By 2014, police unions have been improved in terms of education, protection, and legalization.

South vs. Northeast

Different regions of the country demonstrated various approaches and attitudes to these organizations and their importance. For example, the South did support neither police unions nor strong employee associations. However, in some parts of the United States, unionization was a crucial step due to such a process as industrialization and social inequality. The size of the police department determines the necessity to create unions.

In the South, people faced serious problems based on the quality of life, frequent court trials, and a variety of social groups. Therefore, collective bargaining remains to be spotty in this region. In the Northeast, almost every large police department was unionized (Cordner, 2013). However, comparing these two regions in terms of unionization, it is necessary to admit that almost all Northeast cities have already grown and achieved certain benefits. The development of the South is an ongoing process, and the role of police unions may be increased with time.


In general, the development of police unions in the United States has enough clear reasons and outcomes. People want to feel governmental support and understand what they can or cannot do regarding the already established rules and norms. Police officers and administrators were deprived of fair salaries and promoted unfair treatment to the US population. It was required to change something, and police unions were rather helpful in determining police culture, controlling county finances, and promoting discipline and trustful relationships with police.

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Cordner, G.W. (2013). Police administration (8th ed.). Waltham, MA: Elsevier.

Marks, M., & Sklansky, D. (Eds.). (2014). Police reform from the bottom up: Officers and their unions as agents of change. New York, NY: Routledge.

Swanson, C.R., Territo, L., & Taylor, R.W. (2016). Police administration: Structures, processes, and behavior (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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