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Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 9, 2010 7 years ago

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Articles imply progress has not been made

by: John McGruder

Dear Editor:

Regarding the Citizen Police Panel, your recent reporting, editorial and Mayor Kelly Kirschner’s reply suggest that despite some heavy lifting, more is required for the city to attain the unified vision and community support that is sought. 

An Aug. 19 article stated that little progress had been made on resolving differences between the panel and city/police and that “panel members were upset that 100% of their recommendations were not immediately adopted.” The analysis was shocking. I have not heard any panel member seriously suggest he expects 100% of the recommendations be adopted, much less adopted immediately.

More important, significant progress was made at the Aug. 13 meeting and prior. In fact, few differences remained, even though some city/police responses supported alternative recommendations and others rejected recommendations altogether.

The veracity of that conclusion is evident in your Sept. 2 article, which notes the discussion shifted “focus to two contentious issues: the scope of power and the ethnic makeup of the permanent panel.” Frankly, these issues have to do with implementation; more noteworthy is that this key recommendation was accepted.

Further, the September article highlights statements by a panel adviser whose thoughts, regardless of how accurate or well-intentioned, were not shared by a number of panelists. The better story was that two African-American panelists disagreed with the expert, yet their views were relegated to an afterthought.
Last, your editorial staff chose an easy target by criticizing the panel chairwoman on “going too far in pushing her agenda into the management and operations of the police department.” The mayor’s right; the report was adopted unanimously. Prediction: By the time we are done, we will get this right, for the panel, the city and the police. 

Finally, please consider “Recommendation 24.3: The community, and media (emphasis added), should make determined efforts to highlight good performance and conduct by officers.” The Sarasota Observer has been a strong advocate for the police; perhaps it could add to “Cops Corner” a suggestion from the report, i.e., “to offer a weekly article on a police officer as a one-year public service to help introduce officers to the community.” 

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