|Photo: Kenneth Smith|Facebook|
To the Editor:
While everyone is entitled to have an opinion and many are entitled to voice it, surely, by now, anyone should know that not everyone is entitled to voice it publicly to reporters, on social media or even within emails. There are almost always regrets or consequences when those words are shared. But why is it so important for police in particular to keep their opinions private?
The way our system of justice works is the police protect and serve. They enforce the laws on the books and when warranted, they arrest those believed to have broken those laws. In so doing, they gather evidence pertinent to the case. The District Attorney then reviews the evidence and determines whether or not it is worthy of a trial and then and only then will a judge or jury determine the guilt or innocence of the arrestee. It is called due process and everyone in the country is entitled to it. When the police, in their official capacity, do not stick to the facts of the case and instead express opinions on the character of people they arrest, prior to due process playing out, they undermine the integrity of their work and bypass due process potentially poisoning the entire population from being eligible jurors. What is most important to understand is even the appearance of partiality is as damning as the real thing. This is why it is imperative for police leadership and all of the force to remain professional and stick to the facts of their cases and keep the opinions for off-duty, off the record discussions.
So in the particular events of last week, the commissioner voiced his personal opinion on the case of an individual who had not been given due process and who happened to be active in Hudson politics and had a past with the police where they had arrested him and he was acquitted. It is at these times when the appearance of impartiality is so essential and this did not happen. Whether or not he will be found guilty, and whether or not he is a friend of the mayor is irrelevant. The remarks were inappropriate for the leader of the police force and are not doing the force or city government any favors at a time when the mayor is trying to rebuild trust within the community.
Simply put, no one has ever lost their job for being professional and had the commissioner kept his remarks so, he’d still be the commissioner. Even if he agreed to rescind them, he would still be the commissioner. Sadly, it is the mayor who is being blamed for not watching the police force’s back, when it was the commissioner who decided his own fate.