Wednesday, September 21, 2016

See something, say something?

EDITED: 4:41 pm 9/21/16

On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson convened a press event to denounce the recent wave of violent crime that has washed over New Jersey’s capital city. During the course of the presentation attended by various levels of state, county and local officials, a broad based approach to combating the violence.

As Greg Wright wrote in the Times:

“Clergy members, law enforcement officials, local and state politicians and others - including state Attorney General Christopher Porrino - then took turns outlining what their organization or agency would do to about the recent shootings and how to prevent future ones.”

“Nearly every speaker called on the community members to join the leaders in the push, calling for a cultural shift within the communities where citizens see crimes occur but don't report them.”

On the same day, news reports revealed that an investigation had been launched into allegations that a Trenton Police K9 Officer had sex with a prostitute, in a TPD facility while on duty.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that other K9 Officers may have had knowledge of the incident. If that is true, it sort of negates the request from the Mayor, Police Director Ernest Parrey and other officials for the community to report crimes they are witness to.

The relationship between any law enforcement agency, especially a local police department, and the community it is sworn to protect and serve is based upon mutual respect for each other and the laws that govern us all.

The recent high profile incidents of police involved fatal shootings has weakened the community police partnership. Trust in local departments is flagging…whether deserved or not.

While Trenton has thus far escaped any of the incidents like those in Charlotte or Tulsa or Baton Rouge, etc., the trust between the people and the police is not as strong as it should be.

While an incident of an officer having sex with a prostitute while on duty isn’t the most heinous of crimes, it is an indication to some that the police think they are above the rules.

And even though it is one officer, it reflects poorly on the entire department. To John or Jane Q. Public, it’s not a matter of “one bad apple”, but rather the whole bushel basket is assumed to be spoiled and riddled with worms.

Compounding this is the allegation that other officers were aware of the situation and did not report it. If that proves to be true, it just adds to the public perception that the police have double standards for behavior…one for themselves, one for the rest of us.

Now let’s be clear…our experience has shown that the majority of Trenton’s police officers are hardworking individuals who are proud to wear the badge and truly work to serve all they encounter. In any organization there will be those whose performance falls below the acceptable standard.

When an officer does something that is wrong it is incumbent upon those around the individuals to not turn their heads and look the other way. Rather, they need to report it. It is also up to managers to deal with the problem appropriately, definitively and swiftly.

Too often we have heard past and present TPD officers calling out members of the public or public officials for bad behavior. Why should they remain silent when it comes to one of their own?

There was a somewhat muffled outcry from some members of the department when a police academy cadet was dismissed for cheating and then allowed to re-enter a subsequent academy class. Why would they choose to look the other way when a veteran officer breaks the law?

Allowing the “bad apples” to do as they wish undermines the community-police partnership. It tears at the already shredded fabric of faith the people are asked to place in the police. Weakening that relationship puts both parties at higher risk for more serious confrontations down the road.

If, at the completion of the investigation, the allegations prove to be true, the officer must suffer the appropriate consequences. And, should it be proven that others knew of the situation and did nothing about reporting it, they must be punished as well.

If you see something, say something applies to both sides of the thin blue line.

We have just learned that the officer being investigated for the alleged dalliance with the prostitute has taken his own life. His actions with the woman were absolutely wrong but this is very sad. Perhaps if, instead of turning a blind eye, his colleagues had spoken up this sad turn of events could have been avoided.