By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 4/23/19 (Tue)
It seems there is a significant rift developing between the Kenmare City Council and the Kenmare Police Department.
As a news reporter who covers that “beat,” I’ve listened to the back and forth for more than a year now and getting differences resolved apparently isn’t happening.
Sometimes it’s bickering, sometimes it’s intense debate and sometimes it’s somebody taking a cheap shot at the other. The bottom line is this has to change.
I live in Carpio and commute to Kenmare every day to work so some of you might ask why I care?
But I do care about this particular situation because when taxpayers sit there and listen to council members and the police department continuing to disagree, it’s a little over the top and not in the best interest of the community.
Last Monday, April 8, was more embarrassing than it was productive. It’s turning into a circus.
As that meeting progressed, you could have cut the tension with a knife and there were numerous people, including council members, who I’m sure wished they could have just got up and walked out.
Typically, a journalist would see this as material for a good story. Instead, there’s a bigger issue here. And, if it comes to me having to be a liaison between these two parties, so be it, because I like members of the council and I like both police officers and what this monthly “buzz saw” is doing is slowly ripping the integrity away from both of them.
When I came to work here in November 2013, Kenmare had three cops with talk of a fourth. Now it’s two and both are constantly under pressure, not from a despondent community, but a city council that continues to hammer away at just about every idea that comes forward.
We all like to think that Kenmare is an ideal community to live and work, and really, it is. I’ve spent my career in numerous communities over the past 33 years and Kenmare and Langdon are the two best communities I’ve been affiliated with.
But it’s not Shangri La and this community needs a police department. Kenmare is perhaps the next best thing to ideal, but bad things can happen and that’s why a department exists in the first place.
Last Monday night, Chief Allisha Britton reported a felony, two break-ins, six domestics, 24 traffic stops and four medical calls.
This is what the police are trained to do. They put on their uniform every day knowing they could go into harm’s way. I know, I spent 35 years as an Army Soldier. I totally understand that dilemma.
I’ve attempted to look at this from angles that neither the police nor the city council have considered. One of them is in the number of officers a city this size has on staff. Yes, there are some that have two, or even one cop, but these are also communities that house county seats and have a sheriff’s department in town.
The only way this constant friction is going to get solved is through compromise, and at this point, nobody seems to want to go down that path.
The council has compensated the police department well in the past year. But, the police continue to bite the hand that feeds them and it riles the council members every Monday night they meet. They need training and equipment, but it’s often sprung on the council without prior notice.
Both parties are going to have to swallow bitter pills and work together planning things out in advance and running with them.
You can’t plan a high-speed chase or a major drug bust, but budgets can and will be planned.
Allisha Britton is perfectly capable of doing her job well. She’s demonstrated that more than once as chief.
But, she also has to work with the council to find compromise in the day-to-day operation of the department for the next 12 months. Budgets aren’t easy but they are a necessary part of management.
The council has to take a more proactive approach to the police department in general. It isn’t the proverbial red-headed step child and commendable accomplishments do occur.
Motivation by fear hasn’t applied since FDR died in 1945. The best way to motivate people is by simply recognizing the job they are doing, try to understand it and acknowledge it.
People will do anything for you if you respect them and if nothing else gets accomplished between the council and the cops, this needs to and things will slowly begin to change and we can then look forward to a professional standard.