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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 5/28/2014

EDITORIAL

Piling on

Mounting calls for Mr. Sykes’ resignation are nearly as silly as the transgression that triggered them

Discredited Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes made a public apology two weeks ago for falsely accusing two city police officers of profiling him during a routine traffic stop in April. That should have ended the matter, but public-sector unions continue to pile on with a series of self-serving calls for his resignation.

Saying so is no endorsement of the councilman’s behavior. Mr. Sykes is another small-time, self-important politician who tried to throw his weight around and got slapped down. His credibility and reputation have been tarnished, and deservedly so.

But Mr. Sykes is not the first politician to say or do something ridiculous and presumptuous. If every elected official who did were removed from office, government at all levels — local, state, and federal — would shut down in months.

A Police Department internal affairs investigation and video of the April 24 traffic stop quickly refuted accusations that Mr. Sykes, who is African-American, was profiled by two white police officers. Mr. Sykes called the investigation fair and apologized to the department.

The incident shows again why police car video cameras are important. Had they not been operating, Mr. Sykes’ accusation could have gone unchallenged. He did not have a front license plate, as required by law, and his back license plate was difficult to read, another minor violation of traffic laws.

One of the officers later noted that the tinted windows of Mr. Sykes’ sport-utility vehicle prevented clear identification of its occupants. The vanity license plate on his vehicle abbreviated the phrase “for driving while black.”

In a letter to Police Chief William Moton, Mr. Sykes accused the officers of stopping him without justification. Although he was not ticketed, Mr. Sykes demanded to know whether the department “allows its officers to randomly stop people without just cause.”

The first call for Mr. Sykes’ resignation came from Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association. The union that represents Toledo’s firefighters joined the chorus, citing solidarity with its “brothers in blue.” Also jumping on the bandwagon were the Toledo Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

The teachers’ union has bumped heads with Mr. Sykes, a former Toledo school board member, partly because of his push to privatize school food service. That effort may have contributed to the union’s call for Mr. Sykes’ resignation.

The union suggested that Mr. Sykes has damaged community race relations. That may be true, but by overreacting, public-sector unions are doing equal harm.

Race played no role in Mr. Sykes’ traffic stop, but it’s becoming less clear if it’s playing a part in the chorus of calls for his resignation. Enough. The entire community would be best served if Mr. Sykes, and the public-sector unions that oppose him, got back to work and moved on.



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