In case you missed it, a story appeared last week that is worth revisiting, worth studying both locally and elsewhere.
The headline tells you what you need to know to start:
“Newburgh officers seek to defuse confrontations without using extreme force.”
That is an encouraging contrast to the stories we read and see from so many other parts of the nation, the ones concerning confrontations that escalate.
Considering the challenges in the City of Newburgh, the news and the example are all the more encouraging.
The city has been struggling for decades with poverty and the ills that it brings, most notably drugs and the violence that the drug trade brings. There have been many good examples of cooperative law enforcement, bringing together federal, state, county and local forces to send many to jail. But the city still struggles to provide enough decent housing and jobs, two elements that are the only true long-term solution to the drug infestation.
As a federal official put it several years ago, echoing a sentiment that applies elsewhere as well but is especially relevant in Newburgh, “We can’t arrest our way out of this.”
What is even more remarkable is that the police department also has struggled with a leadership turnover that might have hurt morale and performance, a situation that nobody on the force could change. The city had a chief who by all accounts did a good job. There was a messy transition period with questions about promotions and testing and appointments. Now, the city has a new chief who by all accounts is continuing the practices that were instituted over the past few years.
Both chiefs deserve praise, but the real accolades should go to the cops on the beat, the ones who patrol streets that can sometimes be unfriendly and who have been able to both keep the peace and stay calm while doing so.
The story was full of examples, the most recent not necessarily much different from others but important because it shows people in the city and those who care about it what is happening now
In that incident just a few weeks ago, police were called because a fight had broken out among a large groups of girls. One, a 13-year-old, waved a knife as she approached police who were taking their weapons out of their holsters.
It could have ended with the girl, an officer or more injured or dead. It could have become another one of those stories with conflicting narratives that leave not only human victims but victimize a community and a police department as well.
But it did not. Police, showing what Chief Doug Solomon says are the basic attributes of the department — professionalism and restraint — stopped the girl, took her into custody and ended the confrontation.
“The officer would have been completely justified if he, unfortunately, had to use deadly physical force, but there’s something in the back of all officers’ minds – in the wake of everything nationally over the last three or four years,” Newburgh police Lt. Joseph Burns said.
That is something we need to keep in front of our minds.