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EDITORIAL: Mutual respect at heart of strong police-community relationship

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Law enforcement is never an easy line of work but we suspect local police officers have found their jobs a little harder in recent weeks in the wake of protests in Ferguson, Mo., and more recently in New York. Grand juries in both communities decided not to indict white police officers in the deaths of black men.

The impact of resulting protests and riots has been felt here at home.

“I feel like everyone who wears a badge is under a magnifying glass,” one officer said recently.

We hope the scrutiny some officers may feel subsides as we believe there exists a strong, healthy, positive relationship between local law enforcement and the community it serves.

Perry County does not have the racial tension of other communities but even if it did, we are confident local departments and officers would still be seen in a positive light. The healthy police-community relationship is no accident. Officers and the departments that employ them work hard at community policing and building positive relationships.

We can point to examples. Camp with a Cop is one. Each year, local police officers host a summer camp at Derby. Campers, usually incoming sixth- and seventh-graders, come from a variety of backgrounds and no one is turned away because they can’t pay the camp fee. Campers learn about the jobs of officers and see officers in a positive light.

We have heard nothing but good things about the camp and the officers who sponsor it.

Shop with a Cop is another program that builds community ties. Each December, officers are partnered with children and they spend time shopping for clothes, shoes and a few toys. In the past some children have been foster kids or living with relatives.

We’ve seen shoppers in Wal-Mart cry at the sight of an officer helping a child try on a pair of shoes and people regularly try to give officers donations to the program. The local Fraternal Order of Police chapter sponsors the event and deserves the credit for its success.

Local police department shave been active in anti-gang education efforts. Patrolman Derrick Lawalin of the Tell City Police Department works with sixth- graders at William Tell Elementary School. Students learn about gang issues and the dangers of peer pressure while picking up skills that will help them make good decisions in school and later in life. They also perform community service and as a recent example, helped during a workday at Tell City’s dog park.

Off duty officers are active in their communities, too, as volunteers, coaches and as members of civic clubs and organizations.

Our communities should expect professionalism and hard work from their officers and those who fail in that regard should and do face discipline. That’s happened in the past and some officers who found that police work was not for them have moved on to other careers.

Examples of serious rule violations by officers have, in our eyes, been consistent and fair. If you know of police wrongdoing or see an officer being less than professional, pass the word to those who oversee officers. Or call your mayor, commissioner or town board member.

Police officers naturally take broad statements and hard words against their profession personally. Most of us would. But the mistakes of a few can’t take away the hard work officers carry out every day. And for that we thank them.

Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.

Your view: Tell us what you think. Send e-mail to us at editor@perrycountynews.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.