In a world that has become rife with exaggeration, overreaction and engineered drama for the sake of making headlines – no doubt the consequence of our ever-shortening attention spans and the sheer volume of things trying to monopolize at our minimizing available time – we fear that sometimes we too liberally award titles and adjectives to subjects not deserving of the distinction.
No, that gingerbread latte was not literally “divine” and that viral video of people tricking their pets into thinking they disappeared was not literally “hysterical” (which means laughing so much that you reach a point actually close to insanity). We seem more inclined to use top-shelf words to describe bottom-shelf experiences; perhaps out of a desire to make our lives more interesting in a social media crazed world. Regardless of why, it’s a trend that seems poised to rob our best words of their actual meaning.
But then you get to interact with somebody like Colonel Stephen McCartney, and you’re reminded of why these types of words had meaning in the first place.
Words like “dedicated,” or “determined” or phrases like “tough as nails” and “person of integrity” are thrown around all the time, but rarely do they actually fail to adequately encapsulate the character of somebody as they do in the case of Colonel McCartney.
In his decades of public service – both to his country as a decorated soldier in the U.S. Marine Corps for 30 years and as a public servant leading the Providence and Warwick Police Departments – McCartney has made a mark that will be remembered and attempted to be replicated for decades to come.
It is very easy to take consistency for granted, as we only tend to notice when things go wrong or poorly rather than when they go smoothly and correct. However, it must be noted and appreciated how free from scandal, distractions or embarrassment the Warwick Police Department has been during the entire tenure of McCartney since he assumed the leadership position in 1998.
More than just keeping away from black eyes, the Warwick Police Department has emerged as a national role model in their preparation. Most recently, they’ve partnered with the school department and other first responders in the city through the Mutual Link system to enable a rapid response to any crises that may occur in our school buildings. They maintain the most stringent training in hostage negotiations and SWAT response, despite the fact that we have consistently been ranked as a city with one of the lowest violent crime rates in the entire nation.
This fact is, again, a credit of Colonel McCartney, who has the humility to admit what he doesn’t know and the wisdom to seek out better solutions for the problems that plague our society. He brought in a mental health liaison position through a partnership with the Providence Center to give officers an invaluable resource to deal with people suffering from mental illnesses, like drug addiction, which has been just one of the major cogs helping to shift the policing method in Warwick away from one of reactive punitive measures to a preventative, community-first brand of policing that emphasizes treating people as human beings and not simply codes in a criminal handbook.
The results of this simple, yet so critical culture change serves to actually prevent crime, as people are more willing to work with police officers before problems escalate. Twice every year, the Warwick Police Headquarters is full of people from all across the state looking to enroll in the Citizens’ Police Academy, another method used to demystify police work and open up the process to those being policed – another tactic to foster good will within the community.
Leadership is a trait that often cannot be easily quantified. However, one surefire way to measure the efficacy of a leader is to take note of how people are spoken about once they announce they will be retiring. In Colonel McCartney’s case, let’s just say it is not often we hear absolutely unanimously positive things about any one person involved in anything related to Warwick governance.
From a strictly media perspective, we cannot say enough about how pleasant Colonel McCartney has been to work with over the years. Without jeopardizing public safety or privacy concerns, he has always provided straightforward, factual answers as he learns them and, even more valuable, provided his opinionated context – often without even being prompted to do so – that has helped put stories into perspective and prevent people from doing their own imaginative thinking about developing issues.
We know that people of McCartney’s character and grit are rare gems in this world, but we hope that whomever eventually succeeds him in a permanent role will learn from the example he has set. We cannot more emphatically state our happiness for whatever future endeavors McCartney may occupy himself with, and we will miss his presence in the city.
Thank you for all that you have done to keep Warwick safe, and for giving us all a high bar to aspire to for our own selves.