Law enforcement not enemy of state
Law enforcement is not the enemy of the people. Yet more and more the service and sacrifice of law enforcement professionals is being undermined by a small but increasingly vocal contingent bent on devaluing their importance to our communities.
It’s difficult enough for police officers to stay safe in an ever more violent environment. They should not be subjected to abusive torrents from the very people they are sworn to protect and serve, especially from those in elected office.
During the recent Maryland Association of Counties conference held in Ocean City, our colleague Commissioner Diana Purnell spoke at the Large County Coalition’s annual breakfast.
During a conversation about police reform, Mrs. Purnell made statements, quoted in an article by “Maryland Matters,” that we believe do not reflect the reality of law enforcement in Worcester County.
She disparaged the integrity and professionalism of the men and women who protect our Worcester County communities as well as the many veterans who join the ranks of law enforcement.
Among her comments she said, “the thing that scares me the most about any police department are those policemen that come back from war zones and they are here to kill.”
We do not agree. To suggest that combat veterans who serve in law enforcement are “killers” is an affront to every man and woman who has worn, and currently wears, a military uniform in service to our country.
Such incendiary comments debase dedicated professionals and diminish the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families.
It’s discouraging when such comments are made by ordinary citizens.
When such comments are proffered by an elected official of this county, we are all diminished. There is no place in public discourse for assailing the reputations of the officers who day and night work to ensure the safety of each of us living in Berlin, Ocean City, Ocean Pines, Snow Hill, Pocomoke, Bishopville, Whaleyville, Stockton, Girdletree and everywhere else in our county.
They deserve respect not rancor.
Members of our own families have served in the military and are, or have been, law enforcement officers. We recognize and respect the solemn responsibilities and unrelenting risks inherent in wearing a uniform.
Officeholders – local, state and national – should communicate and act in ways that shape our society into stronger, more vibrant and more tolerant communities; establishing bonds of trust not sowing seeds of discontent.
That task is made more difficult when individuals in positions of power confuse abusive remarks for meaningful dialogue. Our communities improve when public discourse is constructive, especially among officeholders.
Mrs. Purnell is entitled to express her opinion, which she did.
Free speech is a fundamental liberty cherished by all Americans. But let’s not forget that because of the service of the many men and women who have answered the call of duty to our communities and to our nation, our rights are protected.
It is our hope that upon reflection, Commissioner Purnell realizes that the effect of her comments makes it difficult to realize the great promise of our community.
Denigrating the motivations of those sworn to protect and serve weakens the bonds that make a community strong and resilient. Initiating a positive dialogue would have more productively advanced discussion on the concerns Mrs. Purnell believes need to be addressed.
Chip Bertino and Jim Bunting
Worcester County Commissioners