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New London police face criticism without substance

Why exactly is the New London Police Department constantly under attack? Specifically, what egregious abominations has the NLPD engaged in that have caused such animosity and distrust within the community?

I've seen zero news stories of New London police officers executing unarmed civilians, no charges or incidents of flagrant racism or police brutality, no claims of corruption or abusive behavior.

So why do they have a target on their backs?

The NLPD, similar to police forces across the country, has fallen victim to a mindset among many that law enforcement is inherently wicked and unethical. Common sense has been displaced by political correctness and extreme wokeness.

For those unaware, New London's City Council, as the result of a federal consent decree in the 1970s, established a police-community relations committee. This committee can recommend to the city administration and council methods and programs designed to foster better understanding between citizens and police officers.

The committee is well-rounded, consisting of 13 regular members, including the chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, a representative of the New London NAACP, of the gay and lesbian community, the educational community, the Hispanic community, the police officers’ bargaining unit, a designee of the chief of police, and six other citizens of the city.

But it would seem the original intent — to foster goodwill and to cultivate a harmonious relationship between the NLPD and residents — has all but evaporated. Committee members regularly use inflammatory rhetoric to challenge all uses of force, chastise officers for wearing protective helmets and shields, condemn displays on police department digital message boards, push for the removal of the police resource officer from the high school and, most recently, denouncing the acquisition of the armored military vehicle known as a Cougar.

The criticism consistently has racial undertones, following lockstep with national trends. Those who contend NLPD officers are behaving wrongly have the responsibility to produce specific evidence, not lump them together with misconduct elsewhere.

One of these committee members, Kris Wraight, has locked horns repeatedly with NLPD union President Todd Lynch. In the past Wraight suggested that, instead of buying riot gear, police should "use the leadership you've been given to train your officers not to kill black people," and "Teach your majority white force to view New London's black and brown residents as human beings, not 'thugs.'"

She backs “defunding,” cutting police spending by 35%. Unsurprisingly, the police union has reacted by posting photos and commentary on its website responding to Wraight, for which the union now faces criticism.

Lynch, who appears weekly on my radio broadcast, vehemently defended himself and the union this past Wednesday, “No one’s going to tell us what to put on our union website, period,” he said. “We are fighting against people who want to cut our budget and no public figures defend us."

Lynch was disappointed that The Day, in its editorial commentary, targeted the union while ignoring committee member’s attacks.

It's indisputable that the history of our country and the history of it police departments have been ripe with ugliness and unacceptable layers of hatred and violence. More often than many would like to admit, this vile animosity has been directed at people of color. It would be a great sin to forget or marginalize these atrocities.

However, to villainize every officer for actions taken decades ago by their predecessors, or last summer by their peers, is unfair and offensive to police who do their jobs properly. Each officer should be held accountable for his or her own actions, with bias and prejudice always cause for termination.

In the wake of the George Floyd killing, New London Mayor Michael Passero appointed another committee — The New London Public Safety Policy Review Committee — which recently released a 17-page report with five goals.

1. Prevent police misconduct and strengthen accountability.

2. Improve recruitment to diversify the ranks of police.

3. Enhance training.

4. Strengthen community relations.

5. Increase the role of human services to better address the root causes of some misconduct and conflict.

Within each of these recommendations are varying subsets with differing levels of practicality. Some would make policing nearly impossible, while others take reasonable steps toward the stated goals.

When you strip it down it comes to this; police should be subject to complete transparency and judged by their conduct in protecting and serving the public. Their conduct.

But let’s never forget to recognize the daily life-saving work law-enforcement officers provide. To misrepresent and denigrate the police as the enemy tears at the fabric of the community, it doesn’t mend it.

Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.

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