Friday, September 23, 2016

EDITORIAL >> They serve and protect

The recent town hall meetings hosted by police departments in Jacksonville and Lonoke look even more impressive following the fatal police shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, N.C.

The two local police departments hosted town hall meetings at their community centers at the same time on Sept. 8 and reassured residents they’re getting well served while their rights are being protected.

Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd and Lonoke Police Chief Patrick Mulligan spoke to about 45 people in each town. Their aim was to tell residents that their police departments respect the needs of their communities and will do everything to avoid needless violence.

Communication and community were two words used often at the town hall forums, where respect for individual rights do not obviate the need to serve and protect law-abiding residents.

“We can improve the police department with community relations,” Boyd said. He urged residents to come forward if they have concerns about the police and avoid potential problems before they get out of control.

Police officers often have just seconds to decide if their lives are in danger. If they make the wrong decision, they’re branded as villains and will be charged with manslaughter and become a national story.

Boyd said a good police department starts with recruiting, “so you do not get bad cops. There is a screening process to maintain the integrity of that officer. We have monitors in place. We will have some that slip through, absolutely. We will address those as they come to us,” Boyd said.

Mulligan, who expressed similar sentiments, is determined to serve the people of Lonoke with integrity and respect. “I might have to arrest someone, but I’ll hand them a card and say call if we can help you in any way,” Mulligan said in explaining his philosophy to serve and protect. “I had spent a lot of time visiting church leaders about the community and this was the next step.”

Mulligan also looks ahead before there’s trouble. He said he offers free counseling and free anger management classes in the jail led by local pastors, for prisoners and parolees. “In some jails, people are locked up and forgotten. That doesn’t help in any way with rehabilitation. We talk and visit our prisoners and see what we can do to help them when they are released.”

That’s how you make a difference in law enforcement. Good policing pays dividends in the future. Both town halls were effective and, especially since the tragic news in Tulsa and Charlotte, they should be held more often not just in Jacksonville and Lonoke but throughout the area. We don’t need to make national headlines here.