It’s tough to see anything but “lip service” in this week’s response to the lawlessness and unruly antics of large crowds in Ocean City. The same old elected officials’ predictable tough talk came at Monday night’s council meeting. The comments were expected and sang the same tune as the last 20 years whenever things go wrong in the resort.
Though the tough talk hit all the right notes, we gave the city too much credit when we wrongly figured an action plan with at least a detail or two about changes would accompany the heartfelt comments. What we did see was true leadership from Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, who was blunt and warned city officials a more “holistic effort” toward these weekends of lawlessness must be undertaken.
While some were more effective than others, the Mayor and Council members were sincere with their assessment and disgust of recent events, but their remarks understandably brought eyerolls. A review of articles over the last two decades following similar weeks of violent incidents confirm the comments are all the same.
Buzzuro’s voice stood out among the tough talk. He was blunt. His officers need help now, and they better have it by the end of September when the worst week of the year arrives – the spinoff of the relocated H2Oi event.
“Our officers are working hard. They may be somewhat tired, but they are going to press on. We will get through this. The ages of those who are getting arrested are really not our seniors, very, very few 16-, 17-, 18-year old. They are more in the 20s, mid-20 and even in the 30s, and there are serious crimes they are being charged with,” the chief said. “One thing we have to do is really consider … good news is good news, bad news is bad news. We have to be transparent. We have a lot of arrests. We have a lot of people who are going to be charged with the violence that has occurred here. We need to put this information out. People have to know what is going on. People have to know the capabilities of their police force that’s protecting them. I know that information, although we don’t want to put it out, but the 15 guns in the last nine days. Right about now they need to know it. Throughout the country, the grain is against the police. There are a lot of communities who want the police to do a lot less and a lot less hands on. We all know what the marching orders of this police department is and remains – for us to be vigilant, to be proactive and to never retreat and never give up the town. For me, and these are my words, we never will. We are not going to back down. We are going to keep pressing forward, but there has to be changes and there has to be an understanding especially when we move into September with that [H2Oi spinoff] event that’s coming our way. It can’t be on the backs of law enforcement. It’s a holistic effort. We have got to figure out some ways to figure out that dynamic coming our way here in September and that’s not only after we get out of this mess that we are in right now in June. But I’m optimistic because I’m a perennial optimistic that we will. I want the public to rest assure we are doing everything that we can possibly can to keep peace in this town.”
Buzzuro and the department followed through with the transparency promise, sending out multiple police reports and press releases throughout the week. This is a welcomed change. There is no reason to hide anything especially in this day and age of social media. The public needs to know arrests are being made and we need to see the ages and looks of the criminals.
Instead of hiding information and not wanting to let people know what’s happening because it could impact tourism, the concept is now we need to let people know our police department is working hard, making arrests and holding people accountable for their actions, including stabbings, carrying guns, stealing credit cards, assaulting others and destroying property. It’s the way it should be. Not reporting the most serious of crimes undermines the hard work of the police department and gives an appearance there’s no accountability.