We could write much about the horrific choking death of George Floyd while other police officers callously stood by, but it’s a story we’ve heard over and over and over again.
The frequency of black deaths at the hands of white officers has become an all too frequent national disgrace.
The Kent Pilot was disheartened by the cruelty these officers displayed that ignited the violent uprising and forced the Minnesota governor to bring in troops.
Conversely, we were proud of the organizing skills of social justice advocates here in Chestertown who peacefully took to Wilmer Park for the cause of racial justice.
On the Eastern Shore, citizens gathered in county seats to express their common disgust for the state of race relations and the need for comprehensive police reform.
The unrest elsewhere comes at a time when Chestertown is dealing with its public safety budget.
For Mayor Chris Cerino and the Town Council, the solution is to budget the Chestertown Police Department from 12 down to 10 officers–so we can begin to live within our means. We believe that more police is not a guarantee of increased public safety or the remedy to achieve racial justice.
Since 2016 the U.S has added 50,000 police officers to the street and black and brown deaths at the hands of white officers have continued unabated. The idea that we need more police is a false premise.
In the absence of an annual tax differential, Chestertown taxpayers already pay for police protection from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Chestertown residents should expect their money’s worth and feel secure that a county patrol car is always around the corner when Chestertown calls for backup.
And this has always been the case, said Marty Stetson, a former Chestertown police chief, in a brief phone interview on Monday.
“Many times I scheduled only one officer and I knew the county or the Maryland State Police was always there for backup,” Stetson said. Between 1984 and 1990, Stetson said he functioned well with a staff of eight.
“There were a lot of times when one officer could handle it,” Stetson said. “And we have a mutual agreement with the county to provide [backup] and we never had a problem getting help. There’s never been an event where the county wasn’t there to help the town. Policemen are very good at covering for each other.”
Chief John Dolgos, who received accolades as “the Peacekeeper” when he de-escalated a very serious incident involving weapons 15 years ago, is the right person for the job of “Chief” at this time. His calm demeanor, observation skills and sense for anticipation have set the tone for how their officers should act. That result is not guaranteed, but staff conduct starts at the top.
The Mayor and Council should be supported in any decision to scale the police back to an affordable level . At their recent budget workshops, they thoughtfully discussed the fiscal challenges and were able to provide 2 percent raise to all town employees, including police.
The Mayor and Council, and town residents, should have confidence that 10 CPD officers can function well working with the Kent County Sheriff and the Maryland State Police, which has historically proven successful.
All images from the facebook site of The Social Action Committee for Racial Justice in Chestertown.