2017-12-14 / Letters to the Editor

Policies are needed, not just expectations

To the editor:

In the Dec. 7 edition of The Jamestown Press, Jamestown citizens were informed a letter from the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to our chief of police was filed in the trash can.

The letter was an assistive reminder to state police departments about the problems and illegalities of traffic violation quotas because it recently has been reported some departments were following this practice.

What I found disturbing about the article was Chief Ed Mello finds policy to be unnecessary and prefers an expectation approach over establishing department policy.

This left me with some questions. What happens when expectations are not clear? Would violated expectations have the same weight as violated policy? Is the town council also aware of a chief’s expectations? What is the role and responsibility of the town council? Do they approve expectations? What if the town and its council have expectations different from their chief? Can an officer be held accountable to expectations without department policies supporting them? What happens when there is a new chief? How would the town defend itself in a lawsuit without written policy to protect it?

I think this article reveals a vulnerability I imagine many small communities find themselves in. Our appreciation of our police department and our respect for their willingness to protect us leaves us vulnerable to a laissez faire approach to our police department. Our chief may find policies burdensome, but it is policy that protects us and our police force. Policy clarifies expectations and procedures that are acceptable to the community, and it is policy that protects our civil liberties.

Richard Hitt
Schooner Avenue

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