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Police Culture: A quick idea during an assignment

The concept of culture within an organization draws international headlines when it comes to American policing. The culture of policing has been heavily criticized. Culture is hard to define. From a certain logical perspective, thought is not tangible, it is a construction, like the idea of society, and to that extent, the organization itself can be validly argued to be a societal construct, a cultural phenomenon (Morgan, 2006, p. 116). The intangible construction of the organization is heavily influenced, maybe symbiotically, by the intangible culture within. Though, intangible, this culture is embedded in what the professions that make up the organization do. American police, police people, or more accurately, enforce laws. What they do is police and enforce and often, in contemporary culture, people identify themselves with their organization and their occupations. This occurrence demonstrates that cultural influence within the profession can very likely change the very cultural identity of the workers (Morgan, 2006). Currently, the culture of policing has changed the identity of the human holding the badge, but the symbiotic nature indicates that the human holding the badge can change the culture of policing.

In evaluating the culture of policing, on the surface, it appears to be united. Most agencies have words, mottos, formalities, and such. These common cohesion building tools, such as the establishment of a company philosophy, mission statement, or similar such creedos can help establish an inter-system culture if integrated and reinforced (Morgan, 2006, p. 120). What is missing is the integration and reinforcement which cannot be fully isolated from the environment in which the organization functions. In the United States, a competitive spirit proliferates the culture and focuses on winners and losers in popular discussion (Morgan, 2006, p. 122). This categorizing of the successful in-group and the unsuccessful out-group, was so common in Baltimore criminal justice that it was never an issue, it just was it they way it was. What gets measured is what gets done and the winners and losers are chosen by those metrics established by the organization as a whole and the subgroups.

Essentially, what ends up happening is that the institution becomes the culture, while the culture builds the institution (Kundu, 2010, p. 55). The cultural subgroups in policing extend far and wide. Federal, state, or local, urban, suburban, or rural and more, and these have further subgroups. K9, SWAT, narcotics, patrol, traffic, vice, and all of the various specializations and more. The specializations have subgroups within themselves. For example, narcotics has undercover work, street enforcement, major cases, and interdiction. When the values of subgroups are very different, a mosaic culture can form which overwhelms the corporate culture (Morgan, 2006, pp. 132-133). This is especially true within policing. These separated groups can develop into group mentalities that can isolate the groups from one another, as well as from other organizations. It is often the group most similar to the hosting culture, but when power collects and a minority frames the culture, that minority can control the tone of the culture and this is a management failure (Morgan, 2006, pp. 128-129). The critical element of where power collects is found back in those metrics of winners and losers. Those metrics for winners are arrests. Just arrests, not convictions, not justice, not quality investigation, not protecting and serving, just arrests.

When the power is collected by those who just enforce and arrest, then the culture is dominated by this subgroup and this subgroup is incentivized by the metric, to get arrests the quickest and easiest way. The quick and easy methods involve shortcuts, lies, civil rights violations, and when these transgressions become the new normal a strict adherence to a code of silence is culturally encouraged. Maybe it is because the reality of how culture influences the fabric of organizations has long been undervalued (Schein, 1996) that the progression towards power collection, greed, and privilege, as a natural product of the American environment, slipped by management and was magnified by the inherent power of law enforcement. The path to hell may have been paved by good intentions, but that does nothing to change the result of current police culture. This culture must change. A few general guidelines have been noted in regards to implementing cultural change. Those guidelines include, firmly grasping the scope of change needed, that leaders must fully become the change to guide and cultivate it, approach from as many angles as possible, integrate key personnel in developing the change, and vigorously manage and reassess (Levin & Gottlieb, 2009). The scholars of management, leadership, and psychology have provided the framework for organizational culture reform, it is now up to the leaders in American policing to do just that. As it stands, firmly grasping the scope of needed change is the current state of affairs, in 2015, but with the proper research, denial can be shed and fighting that denial is the first priority for fixing the culture of American policing.

Respectfully,

Michael A. Wood Jr.

Levin, I., & Gottlieb, J. Z. (2009). Realigning organization culture for optimal performance: Six principles & eight practices. Organization Development Journal, 27(4), 31-46.

Morgan, G. (2006). Images of Organization. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Schein, E. H. (1996). Culture: The missing concept in organization studies. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41(2), 229-240.

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Blogs & Writings In The News

What Resides in Dark Corners (a response to a letter from the Baltimore Police Department)

Kevin Davis,

I am often perplexed at exactly what to do about bringing reform to policing. It seems as though it has been quite a long time that the obvious issues surrounding policing have been brought to the forefront and I cannot think of anything significant which has changed. It has been a long time since Freddie Gray met the indifference of police culture toward citizen life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, nothing in Baltimore has changed. Arguably, it has become worse. The focus, for me, has been in revolution as opposed to retribution, so I have not named those in the past. That choice is very open to criticism. It cannot be said that I am entirely convinced that tactic is the best path forward.

What I am convinced of, is that this tactic has provided a curtain for which the commanders of the Baltimore Police Department can hide behind. This brings us to this correspondence sent to me dated September 11, 2015. Do not think that we cannot see the subtle jabs of not using my rank. Do not think that we cannot see the laziness and lack of professionalism in misspelling my name, removing the “interim” from police commissioner, atrocious grammar, and calling the agency by its wrong name (it is the Baltimore Police Department, not the Baltimore City Police Department maybe you guys would know that if you cared). Do not think that we do not find it ridiculous that “direct result” is three months later. Do not think that we do not see through the insincerity of the words contained in this letter.

I find it preposterous that if you cared, you would not pick up a phone, you would not speak to me at a protest, that you would not expect me to conform to your time frame and location. You know where I live. You know I seek a public and transparent forum. It is in the desire for transparency that you hide. I do not seek closed door meetings and you have used that to pretend to care. You stand in the safety of your building and ask me to come inside, as if there is some hope of justice under that roof. The problem is that I have worked under that roof, I know that it is a black hole from which the truth never escapes.

How do I get you and your agency into the light? I do it by doing the opposite of what the Baltimore Police Department does. You are not alone in your actions, as policing in America loves to put the responsibility of doing the “right thing” on the community. So now, let us put the responsibility of doing the “right thing” on the people who are actually sworn to do the right thing. Yes, there is one thing I have refused to do and that is to name, names. I still think that retribution is the wrong approach because it is the people in command who set the system up and push officers into this mentality. It is once again shedding leadership, making a mockery of the word, and that does not seem to matter to you. I have left one corner dark. I think that corner should be left dark, but since you have chosen to hide in it, I am left with no choice.

I know you can search the complaints and internal reports and most likely piece this stuff together, but let us play along and pretend you cannot. Here is what I will do. I will provide the details, including names, of my first two reports back in June 2015. The detective who slapped the innocent lady (although you probably already have a complaint on file corresponding to that allegation) and the officer who kicked the handcuffed suspect (who went to the hospital and would be incredibly easy to find) are these two incidents. Together, we can shed light into that remaining dark corner. It is this light that we can bring about reform and public trust. I will participate 100% in these investigations, but first, we shed the light, first we serve the public’s interest. The price for what you say you want is free. An open and honest conversation between Kevin Davis and me for one hour, live, no commercials, unedited, uploaded to YouTube, and without distribution or use limitations.

Michael A. Wood Jr.

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Note: Please feel free to repost/reprint

Related: An interview with the Baltimore cop who’s revealing all the horrible things he saw on the job

 

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Articles In The News

Article – Policing the Police Parts 1 & 2 – Jonathan Park

CapturePolicing the Police, Part 1

Jonathan Park

“Pissing and shitting in suspect’s homes during raids, on their beds and clothes.” This is just one of many disturbing and frankly disgusting instances of routine police injustice revealed by Michael Wood, former Sergeant of the Baltimore PD.

In response to the release of Freddie Gray’s autopsy results, which confirmed that the young man was murdered while in police custody, Wood initiated a series of shocking tweets describing heinous abuses of police power that he witnessed and participated in as a former officer in Baltimore. Though his tweets describe scenes of gut-churning corruption and unbelievable brutality, they are refreshingly blunt and poignant. In a time of extreme polarization, when the “us versus them” mentality between police and the public is so pronounced, it is a breath of fresh air to hear from someone who has seen both sides, and can speak from both perspectives.

As an 11-year veteran, Wood can honestly attest to the callous brutality commonly perpetrated by police officers, but he also understands the psychology underlying that kind of behavior, and he is able to articulate potential solutions. His courageous public comments lend unique insights into the perceptions and attitudes of our police force, attitudes which Wood says need to change.

“A detective slapping a completely innocent female in the face for bumping into him, coming out of a corner chicken store.” Can you imagine working with someone who does that, and not being able to do or say anything about it? On the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Wood explained that he didn’t report this type of behavior because doing so would have put his job in jeopardy. According to Wood, officers who report internal abuses of power are not rewarded as they should be, but are more often branded as traitors and eventually elbowed off the force. However, Wood admits that even if he could have safely filed complaints about the violations he witnessed, he probably wouldn’t have at that time in his life. “What’s really hard to convey,” said Wood, “is that some things are so commonplace, they didn’t register until I was on the other side.”

Wood is in a unique position to help average Americans comprehend the thought processes and practices that contribute to the desensitization and complacency of well-intentioned police officers. “You go in with these grandiose ideas that you’re going to help people … but I wasn’t doing what I set out to do. I was actually exacerbating the situation,” said Wood. “You don’t think about it, you just ignore it.”

Therein lies an inherent irony of policing: while enforcing the law, many officers artificially elevate themselves above it, and the few who are strong enough to resist that tendency are obliged to work with the majority who are not. Officers like Wood, who join the force out of an earnest desire to help people, are presented with a tortuous ultimatum. Either they conform to — or intentionally ignore — the culture of violence and abuse among police, or they try to correct it. In order to really be a cop, to be a part of the policing community, officers have to embrace the former option, even when it stands in direct opposition to the good, idealistic intentions that inspired them to become police in the first place. If they opt for the alternative and become whistleblowers, they are cast from and condemned by the community they are trying to improve. It’s really a lose-lose situation, and good officers are made to sacrifice a cherished element of their identity either way.

Looking back, Wood acknowledges that there were myriad instances when he should have reported other officers for assaulting innocent people. But while Wood was in the middle of it all, he was blind to the moral imperatives that are so clear to him now that he’s off the force. As a cop, Wood said he wasn’t his normal, empathetic, human self. In fact, at the time, he believed he couldn’t allow himself to be fully human and still do the job — it would be too emotionally taxing. In order to be a physical embodiment of the law, to earn the respect of the people he was policing and working with, and even just to put up with those people on a daily basis, Wood felt he had to be somewhat of an automaton: “If I was spit on, I realized they weren’t spitting on me, they were spitting at the uniform … It wasn’t personal.” Like an actor, he had to fully embrace and immerse himself in his role as a law enforcement officer — a role that Wood says is practically impossible to truly satisfy.

The dilemma built in to being a good cop — one who doesn’t go around bouncing people’s heads off the pavement whenever they are personally insulted — is that it requires a degree of emotional distance. At the same time, however, it requires a certain amount of personal accountability, which tends to go out the window whenever people successfully separate their emotional selves from their actions. This is a frightening predicament for our police officers to be in. Like going from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, people like Michael Wood have to transform into policemen like Officer Wood. Unlike Michael Wood the civilian, Officer Wood doesn’t question the ethics of his behavior, or the behavior of his colleagues, because they are cops, and cops are the good guys. Merely by virtue of wearing a badge, any action an officer takes is perceived to be just, or at least justifiable — even when it isn’t.

Wood has proposed that the underlying issue is a matter of power. Police, he says, have way too much of it, and can abuse it too easily without consequence. There are plenty of good cops out there, but they are too often washed out by an overwhelming torrent of policies and practices designed not to help people, but to catch criminals. Sadly, these two objectives are fallaciously conflated by our policymakers, to the detriment of ourselves, our police and our country.

Michael Wood has some very thoughtful, well-informed and compelling recommendations for how we might go about fixing this broken system. In broad terms, Wood suggests that we can start to correct this problem by changing the way “police think they are supposed to be, versus what they are.” I wholeheartedly agree with Wood, and believe it’s high time we reign in our overzealous protectors, reform their corrupt practices and begin holding them accountable when they hurt the people they are supposed to serve. By doing so, maybe we can enable our officers to be the good guys that so many of them have always wanted to be, and so many of us have always needed them to be.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

 

Capture11Policing the Police, part 2

Jonathan Park

Michael Wood, a former Marine and ex-Sergeant for the Baltimore PD, recently became a very public proponent for systematic police reform after tweeting about the heinous injustices he witnessed and participated in while he was on the force. Listening to Wood describe his 11-plus years as a police officer is a frightfully thrilling experience. His is not the story of a well-adjusted, level-headed keeper of the peace, but rather one of a young, testosterone-fueled adrenaline junkie with a license to knock heads and break down doors. According to Wood, his seemingly extraordinary experience with the Baltimore PD is pretty much par for the course.

Wood, like many officers, originally joined the force out of an earnest desire to help people. Unfortunately, that idealistic sentiment was quickly flushed out by the reality of being a cop. He came to understand that his job was not to help people, but to catch criminals. Under the current laws and policing policies, especially in minority-dominated, poverty-stricken places like Baltimore, catching criminals doesn’t necessarily help anyone, nor does it necessarily lower the crime rate. In fact, it didn’t take Wood long to recognize that he was actually perpetuating many of the problems that he had initially intended to help resolve. One such problem was the inequitably high arrest rate for African Americans in Baltimore.

The horrifying reality of our modern police force is that our officers have monthly quotas, much like telemarketers or used car salesmen. According to Wood, officers who fail to meet their quota are verbally abused by supervisors, overlooked for pay bumps or promotions, and often punished with unpleasant patrol assignments. The inherent irony of the quota system is that it provides the police with a completely counterproductive measure for success. Rather than focusing on reducing or preventing crime, the quota system forces the police to constantly find or create more crime in order to meet their ever-ballooning arrest expectations.

In an interview with Joe Rogan, Wood explains the effect that quotas have on perpetuating crime and proliferating the grossly lopsided rate of African American arrests in cities like Baltimore. Keep in mind, traffic violations and mundane tickets don’t count towards the quota, only criminal arrests. For that reason, when Wood was a shift commander, he used to tell his men not to waste time pulling old white people over for speeding. Instead, he advised his squad to focus on the people who commit crimes that count towards the quota, namely black males between the ages of 16-24.

“[That approach] makes sense,” said Wood, “until you complete the cycle and realize that you started doing that because of institutionalized racism in your organization. So when you’re jacking up those [black] guys on the corner and you do find that dimebag, you send him to jail. Then he can’t go to work the next day so he loses his job. Then he can’t make it to court so he gets his license suspended. Then, (after he finds a new job), he’s driving and you’re focusing on those 16-24 year old black males so now you’re more likely to pull him over. You pull him over with a suspended license and he gets it revoked, so now he can’t even drive to work legally and he’s left with selling drugs on the corner.”

Wood goes on to tell the tragically typical tale of a young man who was, and probably still is, trapped in this vicious cycle. The guy couldn’t get a viable job because he had a long adolescent rap sheet that started with a minor drug charge. As a result, in order to buy diapers for his baby, the young man was forced to sell pot. Wood says he used to arrest the guy all the time to boost his numbers. Hassling nonviolent drug offenders used to really bother him, but they accounted for 90 percent of his arrests and without them, there was no way he could have met his quotas. Arresting this young man in particular really got to Wood, because as he recalled: “The only difference between this kid and me is that when I had a dime bag in my pocket there wasn’t a f—— chance in hell that someone was gonna look, but him — he was gonna get caught eventually.” Wood’s point is that the black community isn’t innately more prone to crime than the white community; it’s just that white people are far less likely to get busted for the minor drug offenses that so often thrust young black people into the pernicious pattern of imprisonment.

The number one problem propelling this obviously unjust cycle is, according to Wood, the war on drugs. The federal policies born of this perverse “war” grant monetary rewards to police forces across the country for all drug-related arrests. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that arrest quotas have grown increasingly more popular and important among police chiefs who wish to profit, personally and professionally, from the glut of government money allocated to “winning” the war on drugs. But how, exactly, do you win such a war?

You would think that the standard for progress on this front would be a decline in drug-related crimes. As we have seen, however, drug-related arrest quotas — the current measure of success — only serve to increase arrests, and thus increase crime. Therefore, under this system, police efforts to resolve the problem of drug abuse in America will only continue to inflate the amount of drug-related crime, real and perceived. As a result, the war on drugs will continue to sustain and intensify the systematic injustices that are routinely committed against marginalized communities in cities like Baltimore.

When asked how he was able to enforce the damnable drug laws that he recognized as being the source of so much social injustice and racial inequality, Wood offered one of the most shocking, yet refreshingly honest answers I have ever heard: “It was f—— fun! I lived for the chase! I mean, think about this: you’re in a police car, you’ve got the sirens, you’re going down your favorite highway or whatever… and you’re goin through side roads, you’re chasin’ some guy. There is no adrenaline rush that has ever compared to that. It’s incredible.”

Wood’s startling response sheds light on the attitudes of our police officers. While most of them are just like us, they have to pretend that they aren’t. If an active officer were to make a comment like Wood’s, they’d probably be met with some serious, and understandable criticism. Yet, who among us can’t imagine the thrill of racing down the street, sirens blaring, gun-on-hip, chasing a proverbial bad guy? We like to imagine that our officers always act with reason and compassion, but how many of us would exhibit those traits in the heat of a chase, or a drug bust, or a raid? I suspect that most of us would find it difficult to be kind and considerate.

Now think of how many people you know who use or have used illegal drugs. Should those people, many of whom are self-medicating victims of their environmental and mental circumstances, be treated with the type of force and aggression routinely, and arguably necessarily, executed by police officers? The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding no. These people need to be treated with understanding, respect and, in most cases, counseling. The fault does not necessarily lie with the police officers — they aren’t trained to deal with nonviolent drug users and they aren’t even trained to distinguish between victims of drug addiction and violent criminals. Under the system we have created, both kinds of people are simply criminals, and they both count towards the almighty quota, except drug users offer the added bonus of a paycheck from the federal government. It is imperative that we start protecting the victims of drug dependency from systematic police violence and actually help them to overcome their addictions. That is the only way we will truly be able to reduce drug abuse and drug-related crime in this country. Initiating this process will require us to end the war on drugs.

Decriminalizing drugs and ending the resultant quota system won’t be easy. There’s a lot of money in it, and therefore, a lot of people have powerful financial incentives to keep it going — primarily police, politicians and private prison corporations. Unfortunately, these are the people who are in the best position to speak out against the unreasonable war and affect its end. We need more people like Michael Wood, who have seen the system from the inside and who can honestly convey the drug war’s real consequences to the general public. We also need more people who have been victimized or know someone who has been victimized by police and prison practices fueled by inhumane drug laws to take a stand against them. It will require courage, compassion and good old common sense to end this objectionable battle against the least privileged, most vulnerable fragments of our society. While it is tempting for those of us who do not fall into that unfortunate category to ignore the plight of those who do, succumbing to that temptation would preclude us all from knowing justice, fairness or, ultimately, freedom.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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Blogs & Writings

The Space Between Us: The Evolution of Executive Compensation

Abstract
Executive compensation is a hot topic in 2014; not just in the United States, but globally. The commonly held belief that redistributing top executive pay to the average worker would result in increased compensation for the lower to middle class does not seem to pan out. Despite this, a look at top executive pay and the percentage of wealth that the top one-percent is in possession of, reveals critical lessons for managers who are seeking to effectively implement strategic management plans and increase employee buy-in levels.

The middle class is dying off, slowly but surely. Many things are blamed for this widening of the gap between the rich and the poor: the changing economics of a global economy, generational work ethic, mechanization of the factory floor, and unionization are just some of the scapegoats. Is there evidence that a much more primal human trait is the main culprit and trait is greed? Is executive compensation a microcosm of the expanding gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”? Does excessive executive pay drag the poor deeper into poverty and the rich into more prosperity?

This widening gap does not exist across the globe, some countries have laws that limit executive compensation and those countries have a prospering middle class. For instance, Switzerland, who recently enacted such a law which limited executive compensation (Minder, 2013). The public sphere is filled with propaganda, lobbyist, headlines, and more, all providing conflicting information. On one hand, there are pundits stating that the shrinking of the middle class is a myth (Haskins & Winship, 2012), and on the other hand we have experts stating that there is a dire situation (Kearney, Harris, Jacome, & Parker, 2013). It is the raw facts of the situation which need to be looked at and evaluated, not the anecdotal observations that cloud reality. Projections such as those stated by Rhode, “European and American middle classes will shrink from 50 percent of the total to just 22 percent” (2012) are alarming. It was unintentionally suspected that the evidence would demonstrate a correlation between the skyrocketing incomes of top executives in comparison to the rest of the population. Surprisingly, the available evidence pushes the conclusion in a different direction, calls for more research, and shows that numerically, it is probably irrelevant. It is the dramatic accumulation of wealth by the top one-percent, the public perception of that inequality, and the backlash against it that creates the challenge for managers in the future.

There is absolutely no question that there are some staggering numbers in modern economics. Numbers that seem especially grotesque while many workers are feeling the strain of a poor global economy. A few examples of statements that grab the attention of the population and have unexpected implications later in the analysis are:

    • Make no mistake about it. Executive pay is a prime reason why in 2005-2008 the top 0.1 percent captured a record 11.4 percent of all household income (including capital gains) in the U.S., compared with 2.6 percent three decades earlier. In 2010 (the latest Internal Revenue Service data available), this number was 9.5 percent. The income threshold among taxpayers for being included in the 0.1 percent in 2010 was $1,492,175. Of the executives named in proxy statements in 2010, 4,743 had total compensation greater than this threshold amount, with a mean income of $5,034,000 and gains from exercising stock options representing 26 percent of their combined compensation. (Lazonick, 2012)
    • The world’s top 100 billionaires now hold so much wealth, says a new Oxfam report, that just the increase in their net worth last year would be “enough to make extreme poverty history four times over.” (Pizzigati, 2013)
    • Last year [2006], the average American worker had to toil for an entire year to make what the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs made in one day. Moreover, the gap between what the lowest and the highest paid employees is widening. (Rheannon, 2007)
    • Wages for the top one percent spiked 131 percent between 1979 and 2010, while wages for the bottom 90 percent of workers rose just 15 percent over that same period, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (Associated Press, 2012)

This is the information that struggling employees are inundated with and are talking about around the water cooler. The logical sentiment is to draw the conclusions, if this top one-percent were not so greedy then the lower class would not be sinking lower while th6e middle class evaporates, and that if these CEOs were not so greedy then the average worker could be paid much more and save the middle class and the economy in general.

It is reasonable to infer that across the globe, economies which have placed limitations on top executive pay or have social restrictions on the top one-percent and CEOs, would see a more prosperous middle class and an ascending lower class. The data for this endeavor of truth is incredibly sparse and calls for much more detailed research. Each year the fluctuation of population numbers, currency exchange rates, buying power, income levels, inflation, et cetera make direct comparisons extremely difficult. There is a significant margin of error in the researched data in figure 1, but it is sufficient to drawn general conclusions. As can be clearly seen in figure 1, there is no direct conclusion that can be made as to the relation to CEO pay and poverty levels.

It is hypothesized that some level of correlation could be discovered if the various factors of the subject economies were thoroughly evaluated, but that would be quite an endeavor, and economics is an unclear science with variables that have little to do with economics as a principal. 1Variables such as culture, social norms, environmental policies, import/export policies, and more. The only conclusion that can be drawn from the raw data is that there is insufficient evidence to believe that excessive top executive pay correlates to an increase in the poverty level and/or a dwindling middle class from a global perspective. This is, admittedly, surprising and goes against assumed logic.

Being that the evidence studied does not show that the growth of CEO pay affects the global economy, the fact persists that the CEO pay is way out of line with history and with timeframes which, especially in the United States, had much stronger economies and less offensive pay gaps. Times in United States history when everyone was doing better than they are now. The common worker takes no less offense to the idea that he or she has to work astronomically harder and longer while seeing that in reality their pay continues to be much lower and insultingly outpaced by inflation. They continue to see news articles in which charts like figure 3, point out in dramatic fashion, just how much their bosses take home in comparison to them, the ones doing the vast majority of the actual work, the ones who sweat to make the operation run. 7

It is fair to argue that it is not the comparison between the sweat that the worker puts in for a year with dwindling compensation versus the compensation awarded to top executives within that year that is the snapshot of the problem, rather that it is the cumulative effect of that disparity. It is the reality of the quickly expanding disparity between CEOs and the average worker that started in the early 1970s and quickly grew from there. “Over the course of the 1970s and ’80s, the real after-tax earnings of the average manufacturing worker had decline2d by about 13 percent” (Lazonick, 2012). Beginning in 1979 the disparity exploded. Factoring in inflation, the poorest Americans are earning less than they did in 1979, despite political, educational, and technological advances that should drive the poor to continuously climb. It may seem like the poorest Americans are a small group, but it is “Americans in the bottom tenth of the wage distribution [who] earned less [in 2011] than the lowest earners did in 1979, accounting for inflation, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile, the real wages of the median worker rose only 6 percent between 1979 and 2011” (Associated Press, 2012). With approximately 150 million workers in the United States, that is an estimated 15 million workers who have regressed due to inflation alone.

Inflation is no3t the only factor that should be considered when calculating fair wages. There is also productivity. In this time span between 1979 and 2013, worker productivity increased by 69 percent while compensation increased by just 6.5 percent. With inflation factored in, effective wages have decreased. The minimum wage in the United States in 2011 was $7.25 per hour. Simply factoring in the increase in productivity the minimum wage should be $18.30 per hour. This lack of reward for increased productivity is quite the opposite on the other side of the income spectrum, in fact if the minimum wage reflected the income gains of the top 1%, it would be a staggering $31.45 per hour (Associated Press, 2012). This disparity is glaring and understandably headline grabbing for the news.

What does this mean for business management and governments? It means that a breaking point has been reached and the people and workers are fighting back. The workforce is tired of seeing executives with salaries plus bonuses which total $1 million or more continually increase, 529 in 1992, 703 in 1993, and 922 in 1994 (Lazonick, 2012). While they see the reduction of their households as reflected i4n figure 6. The backlash is no longer in words, there is action taking place. In the United Kingdom a publically traded gambling company, paid CEO Richard Glynn £4.7m (7.89 million USD) for the 2013, an 85% increase from 2012.  Outrage and investor backlash ensued because during this period the company had a 32.8% drop in profits, which fell from £200.7m (337 million USD) to £138.2m (232 million USD) (Rab, 2014). The outrage is sure to result in action, like it did with Gold Field Ltd.

A similar situation happened in 2012 at Gold Fields Ltd., resulting in Chief Executive Officer Nick Holland’s pay being dropped by 45% and the company’s share price fell by two-thirds (Crowley, 2014). A two-thirds share price drop is a serious loss for investors and company potential. The tide of disparity rebellion went even further in Maryland:

About a dozen faculty members and 30 students at St. Mary’s College, a public school in Maryland, have proposed a plan to limit the salary of the highest-paid employee to 10 times that of the lowest-paid employee. At St. Mary’s, the total salaries of the president and vice 5presidents have risen 91 percent since 2000, according to the pay cap campaign. And student tuition has risen about 60 percent since 2000. In contrast, St. Mary’s lowest-paid employees have had their salaries increase 56 percent over the same time period, the activists say, and associate and full professor pay has actually increased at rates that are lower than inflation – 29 and 22 percent, respectively. (Miles, 2014)

The situation at St. Mary’s is evolving, but the push and public sentiment is for a school policy to be established that forces equality for the future and brings the current situation up to appropriate levels. This demonstrates the flow of the workforce mentality that contains the true lesson for management. When the workforce sees increasing profits, such as with Walmart who had $22 billion of annual pre-tax income which would equate to a $10,000 a year raise for each of its 2.1 million [global] employees (Blodget, 2010), motivation dips, investors become outraged, and the all-important buy-in of employees to the company’s mission is almost impossible. It is all about perception and often perception becomes reality.

There are plenty of criticisms to the idea that something should be down to bring down top executive pay and put a dent in the exponential growth of the top 1% at the expense of the average worker. Many believe that the government has no business regulating top executive pay, even President G.W. Bush stated as such, “Government should not decide the compensation for America’s corporate executives.” The flaw in this thinking is that government regulates, pollution, distribution, stock market rules, occupational safety, et cetera at the very same time. The government regulates the bottom end, setting a ridiculously low minimum wage, there is no logical reason that the maximum cannot also be regulated.

Another justification is that the demand for CEOs is so high that those high salaries are a result of supply and demand. Anecdotally, this can be immediately seen as absurd. The business world is full of extremely high paid CEOs who lost millions, billions, in company value, some even needed the federal government to bail them out. There is the belief that the stockholders of publically traded companies can also regulate the pay through their board votes. While this seems logical, who has enough stock in a company to be a board member? It is other members of the top 1% who control these board and you cannot expect that the club will vote to hurt the club because that goes against everything known about human behavior. Sports stars and other celebrities make tons of money, but no one complains about them. While this objection is true, it does not mean that it is a rational comparison. They train their whole lives for a short window of pay, injury can stop everything, and if they don’t perform, they don’t get that high pay. Although the aforementioned justifications are easily dismissed, there is one objection to top-executive pay affecting the global economy which has some merit.

How much is this money really? There are those who dismiss the entire situation of high CEO pay by stating that even though the money going to one person is large, the redistribution of that amount has no significant impact on the economy or employees of a company. Using Walmart as an example, the half-truth of this is easy to see. Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, made a staggering $23.15 million, an embarrassing 1,033 times the $22,400 salary of the average “associate” of Walmart. If it were regulated back to 1979 levels and CEOs could only make 35 times as much. Spread out over Walmart’s 1.4 million U.S. workers the average “associate” salary would only increase by $16 per year. From a purely numerical standpoint, this objection is true. The bottom line is that under this regulation, Mike Duke would make $784,559, almost twice as much as the President of the United States and he would still live quite prosperously. Companies are also stock piling profits though; as mentioned previously, if Walmart distributed their profits to the employees, then the increase would be $10,000 per year, a number sure to have an impact on the entire economy especially considering that Walmart employs 1% of the U.S. workforce. The key lesson is in perception, the cumulative increase of the top 1% and stockpiling of profits, hurts the buy-in of workers, creates an us vs. them mentality, and affects employee morale.

 

Recommendation for Managers:

Perception goes a long way. The result of this research is that the workplace issue on the horizon is the rebellion against the one percent. The truth of the one percent is almost irrelevant because of the perception of the one percent and the implications on the goals for mangers, investors, and top executives. The backlash has already begun, those that combat the backlash and face it head on are the managers that will succeed in the future.

Management guru Peter Drucker, echoing the view of finance magnate J.P. Morgan, believed that the ratio of pay between worker and executive could be no higher than 20-to-1 without damaging company morale. Several studies have supported this belief. A poll of Industry Week subscribers, the majority of whom are managers themselves, revealed that over half felt that soaring salaries at the top had a depressing effect on their morale and productivity. Another study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that high levels of executive compensation generated cynicism in white-collar workers. The research further found a correlation between cynicism and tendencies toward unethical behavior. (Anderson, The CEO Pay Debate: Myths v Facts, 2009, p. 1)

There is an undefinable moral objection to the astronomical disparity and the solution lies right here in the United States. Hardly anyone ever complains that the U.S. President makes too much money.

The U.S. President’s salary is $400,000. “Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management science, considered twenty-five to one an appropriate ratio for the private sector as well. Larger gaps, he argued before his death four years ago, undermine enterprise effectiveness and efficiency” (Anderson & Pizzigati, 2009). The biggest push in modern management is increasing efficiency through intelligent resource management and employee investment in the goals and missions of the employer. There are always exceptions to the rules in economics, but there is a rising theme in the business world that inflated top executive pay has a negative effect on sustainability in the long run; for example:

Japanese and German companies have won world market dominance led by executives who earn a fraction of what American CEOs are paid, CEOs and their boards of directors have together unlocked CEO pay from company performance, and in some cases disguised the true extent of CEO compensation from the company’s shareholders. He further points to the damaging effects of inflated CEO pay on company morale and productivity and on the national work ethic, as the disparity between the incomes of middle-class Americans and the pay of American CEOs grows even greater. (Butts, 2003, p. 60)

There is a growing global trend towards the recognition of this fact, it is those that are recognizing this trend who will prosper in the decades to come.

Managers may not be able to have direct impact on this, but they can influence the decisions of top executives by understanding the situation, presenting valid arguments, and making the changes once they ascend to the top executive ranks. Some facts that managers, executives, and the voting public need to be aware of are:

  • German law states that paying a worker an immoral wage is illegal.
  • Denmark negotiates a minimum wage that applies to all public and private sectors, currently the equivalent of $20 per hour.
  • Sweden minimum wages are collectively bargained annually.
  • Many countries set the minimum wage through collectively bargained agreements which automatically extend to everyone else.

There is no doubt that the moral implications of the disparity in pay is difficult to define. It will be challenge for management, but ultimately management will be ineffective and fail as its mission if it cannot stem back the tide of public dissent towards the executives running the company and the rest of the top one percent.

In conclusion, the direct correlation of excessive top executive pay in comparison to the average worker and its effect on the increasing lower income group cannot currently be made, but the cumulative effect of wealth being concentrated in this top one percent and oven more so in the top .1 percent is making daily headlines and causing a growing level of discontent among not just the workforce, but the populous as a whole. A rapid movement towards more realistic CEO compensation is a necessary element for managers to succeed in the current environment and a recognition of the current environment is a key element to effective strategic management. Managers are only going to be able to do this through articulate policy development, influence on top executives, and by making the changes (at a personal income loss) when they fill the top executive positions in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Anderson, S. (2009). The CEO Pay Debate: Myths v Facts. Washington D.C.: Institute for Policy Studies.

Anderson, S., & Pizzigati, S. (2009, March 2). Pay-Cap Populism. Retrieved from The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/pay-cap-populism

Associated Press. (2012, September 12). U.S. Poverty: Census Finds 46.2 Million Impoverished As Median Income Drops. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/us-poverty-census_n_1877197.html

Blodget, H. (2010, September 20). Walmart Employs 1% Of America. Should It Be Forced To Pay Its Employees More? Retrieved from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/walmart-employees-pay

Burton, J. A., & Weller, C. E. (2005). Supersize This: How CEO Pay Took Off While America’s Middle Class Struggled. Washington D.C.: Center for American Progress.

Butts, D. (2003). How Corporations Hurt Us All- Saving Our Rights, Democracy, Institutions and Our Future. Bloomington: Trafford Publishing.

Crowley, K. (2014, April 1). Gold Fields CEO pay drops 45% after investor criticism. Retrieved from Bloomberg: http://www.mineweb.com/mineweb/content/en/mineweb-gold-news?oid=235455&sn=Detail

Dymond, J. (2011). Getting the Balance RIght: The Ratio of CEO to Average Employee Pay and What it Means for Company Performance. London: HayGroup.

Haskins, R., & Winship, S. (2012, December 11). The Exaggerated Death of the Middle Class. Retrieved from Brookings: http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2012/12/11-middle-class-haskins-winship

Kearney, M., Harris, B., Jacome, E., & Parker, L. (2013). A Dozen Facts about America’s Struggling Lower-Middle Class . Washington D.C.: The Hamilton Project.

Lazonick, W. (2012, April 4). How High CEO Pay Hurts the 99 Percent. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-lazonick/post_3212_b_1403163.html

Liberto, J. (2013, September 18). SEC rule to disclose CEO vs. worker pay. Retrieved from CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/18/news/companies/sec-ceo-pay-rule/index.html

McDonnell, S. (2014). CEO Compensation in the US Vs. the World. Retrieved from Chron Demand Media: http://work.chron.com/ceo-compensation-vs-world-15509.html

McGregor, J. (2012, May 11). Crazy data point of the day: How much CEO pay vs. worker pay has grown. Retrieved from Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-leadership/post/crazy-data-point-of-the-day-how-much-ceo-vs-worker-pay-has-grown/2012/05/11/gIQArUISIU_blog.html

Miles, K. (2014, February 19). Groundbreaking Plan Would Base The Boss’ Salary On The Janitor’s. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/19/income-inequality-salary_n_4748066.html

Minder, R. (2013, March 3). Swiss Voters Approve a Plan to Severely Limit Executive Compensation. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/business/global/swiss-voters-tighten-countrys-limits-on-executive-pay.html?_r=0

Mishel, L. (2006, November 9). CEO-to-worker pay imbalance grows. Retrieved from Economic Policy Institute: http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_snapshots_20060621/

Mishel, L., & Sabadish, N. (2012, May 2). CEO PAY AND THE TOP 1%: How executive compensation and financial-sector pay have fueled income inequality. The State of Working America, 12th edition, pp. 1-7.

Pizzigati, S. (2013, January 27). To End Extreme Poverty, End Extreme Wealth. Retrieved from Inequality.org: http://inequality.org/extreme-poverty-extreme-wealth/

Rab, R. (2014, March 26). Ladbrokes Receive Criticism over Controversial CEO Pay Increase. Retrieved from Gaming Zion: http://gamingzion.com/gamblingnews/ladbrokes-receive-criticism-over-controversial-ceo-pay-increase-4616

Rheannon, F. (2007, September 15). Excessive CEO Compensation Hurting US Companies and Society. Retrieved from Environmental News Network: http://www.enn.com/business/article/23084

Rhode, D. (2012). The Swelling Middle. Retrieved from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/middle-class-infographic

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. (2014). Executive Paywatch: High-Paid CEos and the Low-Wage Economy. Retrieved from The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations: http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014

Thompson, D. (2014, March 30). How You, I, and Everyone Got the Top 1 Percent All Wrong. Retrieved from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/03/how-you-i-and-everyone-got-the-top-1-percent-all-wrong/359862/

Velasco, S. (2013, December 12). CEO vs. worker pay: Walmart, McDonald’s, and eight other firms with biggest gaps. Retrieved from The Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2013/1212/CEO-vs.-worker-pay-Walmart-McDonald-s-and-eight-other-firms-with-biggest-gaps/AT-T

 

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Blogs & Writings

The Curious Case of A Hero Cop

There is section of Baltimore that separates the Eastern district from the Southeastern district called the Monument Street Corridor. The area had become a focal point for Police Commissioner Bealefeld to combat violent crime. A special unit was created, the Monument Street Initiative. The unit was tasked with the dangerous job that Commissioner Bealefeld throws out as a tagline, going after “bad guys with guns.”

It was a typically dark and cold March night in Baltimore. Three of Baltimore’s police officers were working past midnight in the Monument Street Initiative, riding through that Monument Street Corridor, looking for the signs of “bad guys with guns.” Two of those officers would soon be rushed to Shock Trauma from gunshot wounds.

The officers spotted a vehicle occupied by an individual wanted for questioning in a shooting. They waited for a traffic violation, to solidify their probable cause just in case something was found in the vehicle, and conducted a traffic stop. Going after “bad guys with guns,” in the high crime location specified by Bealefeld. The distinct odor of marijuana emanated from the vehicle. The officers ordered the occupants to exit the vehicle.

One of the occupants of the vehicle immediately began to fight the officers and physically assault them. The suspect broke free and retrieved a semi-automatic handgun from the vehicle and began shooting at the officers. The officers returned fire and killed the suspect, but not until after the suspect had shot Police Officer Keith Romans in the face and Police Officer Jordan Moore in the hand. Officer Romans, a former United States Marine, stood strong and returned fire despite the profuse bleeding and pain. The two wounded officers were immediately taken to Shock Trauma, Officer Romans in a fight for his life.

Remarkably, Keith not only survived, but he was released from the hospital three days later despite the trauma caused by a bullet passing through his jaw and into his brain. Doctors said his determination to fight for his life is what saved him. Keith had his jaw wired shut for three months, and he attended therapy for the rest of the year.

He continues to have painful headaches because the bullet could not safely be removed and remains in his head, but his positive outlook and determination to make the best of a bad situation has helped him carry on.

For his bravery the night of the shooting, Keith has been nominated by his Lieutenant for a Medal of Honor. Lt. Garrity says there is no doubt “his actions that night were heroic.” Keith and his two partners were also named Police Officers of the Year by the Knights of Columbus. Just one month after the shooting, Keith and his fiancée decided to seize the moment and marry, and their family and friends helped them plan a small wedding and party held the very next evening. As Keith says, “I’m happy to be alive.” – America’s Most Wanted All-Star Award, nomination bio.
Officer Romans was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Citation of Valor for his actions that night. Officer Romans is a hero, undeniably, and should be treated like one, right? So, at this moment, what do you think happened to Officer Romans?

Treated like a hero, Officer Romans was not. Despite sacrificing time away from his friends and family, by working the brutal hours of the Baltimore Police Department’s operations units (usually 7pm-3am with Sunday and Monday or Monday and Tuesday off) and getting up every day in time to make it to 9am court (imagine what that does to your life), going after Bealefeld’s “bad guys with guns,” risking his life to serve the city of Baltimore, standing strong while injured to return fire, having honorably served in the Armed Forces, and so much more, Officer Romans was thrown away like so many other things that get swept under the rug in Baltimore.

It used to be that officers who were injured in the line of duty and were left disabled would stay as an instructor or in a desk position, something would be found. The blinded Agent Cassidy, who taught at the academy for many years after being shot, is an example. It is not only police tradition to take care of those that were disabled after risking their lives, it is simply the human thing to do. But now, not even Agent Cassidy is a member of the Baltimore Police Department because it has established a hardline medical policy. That policy, in short, requires any injured officer to return to 100% full duty within a year, if not they will have 90 days to file for a disability pension or be terminated, yes terminated.

The decision to make that policy came from good intentions, as so many bad ideas do. With a significant percentage of the BPD force unable to work the streets because of medical limitations. Most of those on limited duty were not there for long and the names rotated frequently because of the many minor injuries and sicknesses that happen with over 2,800 members. Some of those names were on medical for extremely long periods of time and some seemed to be taking advantage of the system. To cut down on malignant members and avoid allegations of bias, the BPD made the blanket policy of a one year maximum. The BPD effectively shifts the costs from their budget to that of the pension system, which is largely funded by…do you know? Other police officers.

Once forced to apply for a disability pension, like Officer Romans was, one of three things can happen:

LOD: A line of duty disability pension is awarded. The member will be retired and awarded 66.66% of the average of the member’s last three years of salary and the award is tax free.

Non-LOD: A non-line of duty disability pension is awarded. The member will be retired and awarded the 2.5% per year of service of the member’s last three years of salary pension that they have been paying for an earned regardless. This is essentially retiring early but tax free.

Denied: The pension board denies the award of a disability pension and the member is retained by the BPD in a permanent limited duty status. Their career cannot progress, stuck in desk jobs, and must retire immediately upon reaching the qualifications for a normal service retirement.
Officer Romans was immediately granted a line of duty disability pension which seems okay, but appearances are very deceiving. There are a few things to keep in mind that are subject to another discussion, BPD salary is low compared to surrounding jurisdictions, there have been many promises broken by Baltimore (tuition reimbursement, pension contribution rate, medical insurance contributions, et cetera), BPD officers are over worked, and more. The biggest problem for Officer Romans was that he was a rookie, forced out from this heroic act with only 3 years on the job. There is a big pay difference between a rookie BPD officer and veteran officer.

This article will be concluded with what a hero like Officer Romans receives and it is so incredibly despicable that it should literally make you sick. Keep in mind what Officer Romans did, what he went through, what he sacrificed, that (unlike other departments) BPD does not include overtime in pension benefits, that police do not pay into or receive social security benefits, and that the BPD shifts the entire medical insurance premium onto the separated member that has less than 5 years of service. The question that remains, is how any supervisor, leader, citizen, can look a person in the eye and tell them to be an aggressive police officer and go after these, “bad guys with guns?”

Salary average with 3 years of service (for Officer Romans): $42,000

66.66% of that $42,000: $28,000

Medical insurance premium with wife and child per bi-weekly paycheck: $600

Per year of that medical insurance: $15,600

Disability pension minus medical insurance: $12,400

Per week pension for a disabled hero that sacrificed all: $238

That’s $142 per week less than an unemployment payout, $212 per week less than a social security disability pension benefit.

Disgusting.

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What is Your Vision of the Future, Police & Citizens?

For those that do not see it my way. Those who think police need to continue on this war against its citizens. That police need to ensure ultimate compliance with the law, for our safety, of course. What does your vision of the future look like? I see it as armed occupiers, armored vehicles, and cameras on every corner, ensuring that the servants obey the masters. Even if you are right and that is the safest path. Is that the vision of the future that we want to work towards? Do we want to spend our money, sacrifice the lives of our loved ones, imprison our fellow human beings in cages, criminalize those in need of mental/medical care, pick up the bodies of youths lost to the inevitable wars of prohibition, and imprison our lives in fears of the others? Or, do we want to band together and strive towards the visions I speak of along with, DeRay McKesson, Bree Newsome, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and many others. Our future is a different one altogether. It is a world in which human beings return to being one.

 

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