Car 54, where are you?

by Town Reminder

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AVFTFBCar 54 where are you?

By Michael J. Sullivan

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the ninth in an ongoing series of columns written by South Hadley Town Administrator Michael J. Sullivan offering his view of town happenings.

I remember when I grew up (and out), the policemen were often stereotyped as something less than professional. Sure, there was the Joe Friday, but there also was Barney Miller, there were the slick Don Johnson types, but there was also the not-so-slick Don Knotts’ types.
The archetype cop was portrayed as a donut eating Neanderthal who couldn’t care less about making communities safer. In those days, all the smart guys were crooks, it seemed.
Well, I can tell you the vast majority of police today are well-trained, bright, dedicated professionals who care deeply about the communities they serve. I can hear people already dismissing my statements, saying, “What about Ferguson, Missouri? What about the homeless guy who just got shot?” I cannot deny there may be some outliers and some situations where the full truth may never be known.

However, I hear from citizens on a regular basis about interactions with the South Hadley Police which are positive, inspiring and sometimes attitude altering. People whose cars are stuck on snow banks in the middle of a storm (as their colleagues keep driving), citizens who loved ones have wandered away only to be returned by a cop who knows the community, residents who have been victims of a crime who are frightened in a way only a peace officer can bring solace or a policeman who inspires youth at risk to get back on track.
It is easy to say the Quinn Bill was an unwise investment in the intellectual and social capacity of a police department, unless you can relate to the situations fore mentioned. I hear you, it is expensive, but it is so hard to place a price tag on a crime which never gets committed, because the training and education a police officer receives prevents it from happening in the first place.
Recently the crime statistics for the Town of South Hadley were released for 2014. The reductions were quite impressive. Crime in 33 of 35 statistical categories was lower in 2014 than in least one of the previous four years. The total number of criminal incidents was 1,929 in 2014 compared to 2011 when the incident count was 3,207, a 33 percent reduction.
Some of the areas where crime incidents have fallen precipitously are “Burglary” (193, 2010 to 63, 2014), “Theft from a Vehicle” (103, 2012 to 51, 2014) and “Robbery” (11, 2013 to 4, 2014). I wish I could reduce my weight in a similar fashion, but then again, the police are putting forth a real effort. Maybe I should try handcuffs.
The statistical categories are set by the FBI to standardize reporting across boundaries for easier comparison. I admit some of the reduction is due to security systems, cameras and other devices, along with a better informed citizenry, but do not ignore the difference a well-trained, better educated, appropriately equipped, socially aware, less donut eating, police department makes in this equation.
Having had experience with some fine police departments, I can say without hesitation South Hadley has a well-run department with a talented force which every SoHa resident can rest a little easier knowing they are on duty.
They are not perfect and everyone realizes there is still work to do, but the statistics do not lie, things are getting safer!
Congratulations to Chief Labrie and the entire PD, you should all be very proud. There is no South Hadley Police Officer who will rest on their laurels. They are a proud and competitive lot who will work their hardest to beat back crime even further. That does not mean you should not give them a little positive encouragement next time you see them, but like my doctor says … skip the donuts.

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