A federal investigation has confirmed Ocean City’s police officers did nothing wrong during last summer’s high-profile arrests on the Boardwalk.
Looking back at last June’s events, there have been several takeaways. No matter the probe’s outcome, which oddly enough has not been reported widely, the consequences of these incidents are real. Changes have come as a result of these arrests and how they were handled.
First is the imperativeness of people to not jump to conclusions without knowing all the facts. Though the optics of a video showing a police officer repeatedly kneeing a non-combative suspect on the ground are disturbing, the reality is numerous events led to those moments caught on a cell phone video – like the suspects spitting on officers, repeated threats to the cops and other combative acts of disobedience.
Though it may not be directly attributed to the summer arrests and the subsequent fallout, it’s clear the incidents played a big part in the city fast tracking a body camera program for police officers. Having officers outfitted with these recording devices before next season will help with internal investigations as well as carry the potential to be released externally when major incidents unfold in the future.
Finally, another clear result from last summer’s incidents and arranged meetings with minority representatives disturbed by the treatment of the suspects was discussed this week. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan wants the city to create a new position within government called a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
On the surface, it seems like an act of political correctness and a kneejerk reaction. However, research confirms this is a new trend in government and in some cases private industry for large-scale employers looking to cover themselves in a litigious, hyper-sensitive world.
Numerous governments have recently filled or filed ads for the exact position Meehan brought to the council for consideration. For instance, Myrtle Beach, S.C. recently closed its advertising period for the same job Meehan proposed this week. The job description read, “he Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer will support the overall implementation and advancement of the City of Myrtle Beach’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. In addition, this person will collaborate with leadership team members to advance equitableness as a core component of Myrtle Beach’s culture. The incumbent will develop the strategy and action plan needed to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and drive the organization to successfully execute the strategy.”
Before Ocean City creates another new top-tier position, more research is needed on how it will gel with the current structure of the city. Will the individual report directly to the city manager or will it be a layer within human resources? Could this oversight be outsourced or added to an existing job’s responsibilities? What will the job entail outside monitoring hiring practices?
The mayor was right to bring this position to the council’s attention for discussion. It was disturbing to hear him say this week, “The timing for this position is right. we’re currently looking into hiring employees in the police department, the fire department. We are approaching a time when many of our senior staff are moving toward retirement and we continue to look for ways to grow our seasonal workforce… I hate to say it, but we are behind and need to be proactive.”
It’s a position meriting a deep dive by Ocean City officials. It’s a sensitive subject. While difficult to comprehend for many in small business who micromanage operations, the time may be here for a government Ocean City’s size to add this extra layer to its workforce. An intensive and detailed discussion is needed first.