Statements Cross Line
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
(The writers are Worcester County Commissioners.)
Recent media coverage relayed comments that I made during a Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) panel on police accountability and reform last week. However, those comments were taken out of context and injured the uniformed men and women that I respect most: the public safety professionals who protect our communities. So, it is vital for me to clarify what I did say during the MACo panel and the context in which I made those comments.
First, please know that in no way were my comments meant to discourage anyone, especially our military veterans, from serving our communities as members of law enforcement, particularly here on the Eastern Shore where our agencies are operating with severe staffing shortages, shortages that place the lives of our officers and the public at risk every day. My statements regarding the potential volatility of those displaying symptoms of PTSD were made in reference to one specific situation: when the U.S. Capital was breached on January 6, 2021 and people died (note that court records confirm that a disproportionate number of those arrested for their alleged actions at the Capital are active and former military personnel).
Furthermore, my statement was not a far-reaching indictment of military veterans but was tied to my grave concerns that military veterans who return from war zones with symptoms of PTSD are not receiving adequate access to mental health screenings and services. It is vital to communicate that, while the recently adopted Senate Bill 71 (Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021) expands on policing standards that require increased access to mental health services, these are all unfunded mandates. This short-sighted bill is one of the primary reasons that during the MACo panel I also voiced my staunch opposition to calls to defund the very police agencies that are struggling to meet the growing demand for services in the face of shrinking budgets.
I would like to close with these thoughts. Like most Americans, I have close family members who served in the military. And, a wrought iron replica of the flag of the United States that is prominently displayed on a shelf in my office is emblazoned with a phrase I wholeheartedly embrace: “One Nation Under God. Home of the Free. Because of the Brave.” To guarantee access to the medical and mental health services for our brave law enforcement professionals, we have to talk to one another. We have to keep the lines of communication open, so that we can determine how best to fund these needs. By doing so, we will secure the health and vitality of our public safety professionals and our communities.
(The writer is a Worcester County Commissioner.)
Bench Removal Upsetting
This Sept. 4 marks the 22nd anniversary of my daughter’s Megan Ellen Looney’s death. She was 21 years old and from the time she was teen she gave service to the town of Ocean City. She was a cadet in the fire department, then a firefighter one, a 911 dispatcher for Ocean City and a police officer. We were blessed to have had a combination police and fireman funeral. She had more than one eulogy because one was about her service and one about who she was to her family.
One family member graciously gifted our family on the 10th anniversary, with a bench on the boardwalk in her honor outside of her favorite arcade. We were thrilled and even had a little ceremony when it came in, at the sight. A couple of years ago the town said they were going to charge everyone $2,500 if they wanted to keep their plaque on the benches because the benches needed to be replaced. That was met with a lot of opposition and I never heard anything further about it. When the family member bought it, nothing was said about it not being permanent. She was contacted this year and was told that it was being replaced in September and she had the option of renewing it for 10 years for $2,500 or she could keep the bench. Well, we opted to keep the bench and we are supposed to pick it up some time in September.
Not all the benches are dedicated so I guess the city will pay for them. The city is in charge of all maintenance repairs and replacements and I feel this is just a way to keep their budget down at the expense of people who bought these plaques for $2,500 thinking it would be forever. I have a suggestion, why not remove the plaque and put it on the new bench. But then the city would have to pay for the bench. Maybe they are saying replacing the plaque will cost $2,500. I am not buying that.
So, on the anniversary of her death, the girl that everyone, especially the mayor, paid such tribute to is having her bench taken down. Thank you, Ocean City.
Weighing In On Masks
Masks are not capable of preventing inhalation of virus unless they are m95 worn without any leakage. Tests have shown the material will block up to 95% of particles or more, but only with tape sealing all the gaps, or like the airtight Cpac type mask my wife and I purchased and use. The main value of universal school masks is to block the particles from easily spreading from infected people to others, hence the civic responsibility of their usage. They also have discovered a much smaller spread of regular flu last year in active school populations. People need to realize this may be just a practice run for what is to come, 600,00+ dead so far might not impress you, but there are worse virulent organisms out there we have not yet encountered.
With crisper technology easy to get, terrorists could easily modify or create horrendous plagues. So quit your un-informed belly aching and do your civic duty; wear your mask when asked and get your immunizations when available. Small pox was what killed millions until worldwide vaccinations eliminated. Vaccines for Measles, polio, tetanus etc. all have made our lives safer. Boot camp was one after another for weeks when I served, no problem since they did not know where we would be sent.
Hans van den Bosch
Liberal Democrat Thoughts
I don’t know how to react on the issue of whether “Critical Race Theory” should be taught in our public schools. On one hand, it is common-sense to me that we do have a history of racism in our country and that it still very much exists. I believe that the major claims that CRT makes are true and accurate. On the other hand, I can empathize and sympathize and relate to those who feel that there is an element of “reverse-racism” to it. I cannot tell you how often that I have felt like a victim of “reverse-racism” and “reverse-sexism” at the hands of my fellow so-called “compassionate” “progressive-Democrats.” As a 71-year-old white male with a Jewish-sounding last name (I converted to Christianity in 1980), I feel that I am the most disliked Democrat in the country by the “progressives.” Their compassion ends when it comes to people like me. Lives like mine seem to “matter” less to them.
That’s why while I am still a proud and loyal Democrat, I refer to myself as a “liberal” Democrat.
Stewart B. Epstein