With former City Manager Dennis Dare’s chapter with the city officially closed now, it would seem logical for matters to start quieting down in Ocean City as the winter season begins. We learned this week that’s not going to happen anytime soon, as the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) is embroiled in controversy.
After hearing all sides involved this week, it’s impossible not to conclude the upper management at the OCPD erred in how it handled former Officer Earl Campbell and K-9 Charlie, prompting Campbell to resign from the department. It’s worth noting numerous other resignations have occurred within the OCPD of late, but the specific reasons are unknown at this time, despite a swirling pool of unconfirmed accusations being made against Chief Bernadette DiPino and her management team.
In Campbell’s specific case, and we applaud him for shining the spotlight on his former employer, clearly there was a foul up in the chain of command and a dog suffered unnecessarily for days because of it. We believe Campbell when he says his immediate supervisor was slow to proceed with K-9 Charlie’s retirement from the OCPD because a veterinarian’s note was missing. That retirement would have turned ownership over to Campbell and allowed for the necessary surgery to take place days earlier than it did.
When the police department had its turn to share its side of the story, certain protocol was cited, but there was no suitable explanation for the delay and no acknowledgement that it should have been handled better.
What is clear is the Mayor and Council should be appalled that the supervisor said it was the council that was requiring the vet’s note when nobody on the council was aware of the situation in the first place at that time. The chief later allowed the dog to retire without the note out of interest for the animal. Nonetheless, the dog, a sworn officer, suffered unnecessarily while no action was taken. That’s inexcusable.
All Campbell says he wants to see here is a policy in place to prevent this period of uncertainty from happening again in the future. That much would appear to be reasonable and the OCPD should have had a policy in its General Orders for these types of situation. There is an order for practically everything else. If it does exist, it needs to be revisited.
Although reluctant to get involved in police personnel matters, the council should discuss this matter publicly with all parties involved. This was clearly mishandled by the department, which has been embarrassed as a result. The council will most likely not intervene, but it would certainly seem appropriate for the council to hold a public meeting to discuss this situation that blew up into a frenzy this week and does not appear to be calming anytime soon.