Union Boss Demands Must Be Met or Police Must Stop Saving Lives

This summer, law enforcement officials in Stamford, Conn., responded to a sharp increase in drug overdose deaths in their jurisdiction by furnishing police with Narcan kits, which can be life-saving in emergency situations caused by opioid abuse. But government union boss Kris Engstrand demands taxpayers pay Big Labor a toll before police can administer Narcan to save lives. Image: Monroe County (N.Y.) Recovery Support Navigator

Like many other states, Connecticut has in recent years experienced an alarming surge in the number of accidental overdose deaths resulting from opioid abuse.  A news story recently appearing in the Stamford (Conn.) Advocate cited a report from the state office of the chief medical examiner that, across Connecticut, there were “917 accidental overdose deaths in 2016 — up from 495 in 2013.” Of the deaths last year, “853 involved opioids.”

This June in Stamford, which has a population of roughly 122,000 and is the third-largest city in the Nutmeg State, police officers responded to at least 32 overdose cases requiring the use of opioid-blocking drug naloxone, better known as Narcan. The following month, the Stamford Department of Public Safety, Health and Welfare directed all public safety officers to begin carrying Narcan.

Roughly two months ago, Stamford Mayor David Martin explained the basis for public officials’ decision:

Having the Stamford Police Department carry naloxone is a safety measure for the police officers and for our residents. There are few downsides to using Narcan. If an officer is exposed to highly potent opioid fentanyl and experiencing opioid intoxication, or for an overdose of a resident, the immediate use of Narcan can mean the difference between life and death.

Unfortunately, the Connecticut Board of Labor Relations could soon order Stamford to take away police officers’ Narcan kits unless and until public officials get permission from government union boss Kris Engstrand for police to carry this potentially life-saving drug.

Last week Engstrand, who under state law wields monopoly-bargaining power to negotiate pay, benefits, and work rules for police officers whether they wish to join his union or not, filed an “unfair labor complaint” regarding the distribution of Narcan to police officers. An Advocate editorial published this past weekend (see the link below to read the whole thing) addressed Engstrand’s grievance:

Labor negotiations can take months. It can take seconds to die from an overdose.

And yet the Stamford police union [hierarchy] suggests arming officers with a cure represents an “additional workload” that must be bargained.

. . . We like to think most police would not demand a bonus to save a life.

Since Connecticut labor policy ironically dictates that negotiations over public employees’ terms of employment be conducted in secret, local and state taxpayers will have no way of knowing exactly what Engstrand wants in exchange for allowing police officers to carry Narcan. But based on the history of government-sector monopoly bargaining in Connecticut they ought to assume it will be costly.

The Advocate editorial expresses appropriate hope that police departments will refuse to cave in to self-aggrandizing union bosses like Engstrand:

Police in other towns saw immediate results from carrying the devices. After a few months of carrying Narcan last year, Trumbull police saved 10 lives.

So here’s the response from our side of the table, for every department that may be hesitating: Get these cures on the street. There should be no prize for saving lives with something smaller than a cell phone.

But it does come with this bonus: Street drugs such as Fentanyl can cause overdoses through skin contact. It’s just a matter of time before  a first responder is exposed.

Of course, the real culprits are the state elected officals who handed irresponsible union kingpins like Engstrand monopoly-bargaining power over public-safety employees. It is only due to the special legal privileges politicians have given to government union bosses that Engstrand is able to hold Narcan administration by Stamford police hostage to his whims.

Editorial: Don’t bargain with lives on line – StamfordAdvocate