Thinly veiled coercion & prostituting police

Posted 10/26/23

To the Editor,

Call me cousin to the "Grumpy Old Lobster Boat Captain," Patriot's coach Bill Belichick. Like Belichick, I can't abide stupidity, even if it is well-intentioned. And lately I've …

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Thinly veiled coercion & prostituting police


To the Editor,

Call me cousin to the "Grumpy Old Lobster Boat Captain," Patriot's coach Bill Belichick. Like Belichick, I can't abide stupidity, even if it is well-intentioned. And lately I've seen some presumably well-intentioned stupidity among Warwick's "finest" and "bravest" -- our police and firefighters.

Driving through the Hoxsie intersection a few of days ago, I saw a half dozen firefighters walking in and across the intersecting roads with firefighter boots in their hands, stepping in front of cars and interfering with traffic to the point it was backed up. The purpose of their dangerous, jaywalking, waylaying actions that intimidated many motorists and irritated most? Collecting "donations" from motorists for an unknown but surely worthy cause.

 Creating dangerous risks for themselves and for motorists aside, the money collected can hardly be called "donations." If you are a driver forced to stop in traffic who is accosted by a uniformed government employee who directly or tacitly demands you fork over money, is it really a donation? Of course not! It is thinly veiled coercion. Certainly not something Warwick taxpayers expect of its "bravest."

 Firefighters should train to fight fires, always be prepared to fight fires, and actually fight fires when they occur. They should not be stepping in front of cars, slowing traffic, and creating dangerous situations in order to collect money for a charity.

Without using taxpayer time and money, firefighters should conduct a public appeal, send out flyers, plan a charity event with attendees donating to the selected charity. Just don't stop traffic at busy intersections and create dangerous and very irritating situations for the folks who pay your salaries.  

 Now, to Warwick's "finest," our police. Our police chief, Colonel Bradford Connor, is desperately trying to get a national TV program to feature Warwick Police on its reality "entertainment" shows. Connor wants our police force to appear weekly with camera crews riding along with police officers and filming their interactions with Warwick taxpayers--to include responses to burglaries, domestic disputes, drunk driving arrests, etc.

Policing is a very serious business. I should know. Although not in Warwick, I spent seven years patrolling city streets as a municipal police officer. It's dangerous work, both for the police officers and for those they interact with. What it most surely is not is entertainment.

When Warwick citizens make mistakes, exceed the speed limit or otherwise drive unsafely, become involved in traffic accidents, have arguments with their spouses, or for other reasons come into contact with police, they should be treated by police with tactics appropriate for the situation. What they should not be subject to is having their faces exposed to a national TV audience whose weird, vicarious interests are almost prurient in nature.

Traffic offenses and crimes should remain strictly within the province of police and courts, not for public display to a nationwide horde of TV-watching couch potatoes.  Public embarrassment of people who are the subject of police encounters, even if they are guilty of something, should not be a part of punishment.

Shaming wrongdoers in public was supposed to have gone away with the elimination of the colonial pillory. So, instead of locking malefactors' heads and hands in wooden frameworks, we now want to display their personas on nationwide TV? At least in colonial times, those pilloried were usually convicted first. Not so as proposed in Warwick. Here we want to pillory them during the stage when they are still considered innocent--before being proven guilty.

The police reality show entertainment network that Colonel Connor wants to contract with pays police departments to allow their officers to appear on their "entertainment" shows. But does Warwick need this money? I think not. Our taxpayers are quite generous in their financial support of our police. Let's not pursue this shameful money.

And for those who argue that Warwick's appearance on police reality TV will showcase the high quality of our police department? We have an excellent police department, perhaps the best in Rhode Island. We don't need to prostitute our police on national TV to prove it.

Colonel Connor, please back off!

 Lonnie Barham


letter, mail, collecting


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  • Erynn

    Have you been living under a rock for your entire life? Firefighters collect donations annually for MDA over Labor Day and/or Columbus Day weekend. They've been doing it since 1954, and, it started right here in New England, with the Boston Fire Department. "Collecting 'donations' from motorists for an unknown but surely worthy cause" is a complete mischaracterization of their mission.

    Also, in my personal experience, I have NEVER ONCE felt pressured to donate. Cars are approached who have their windows down to offer donations.

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