To protect and to serve the community.
As many of my friends throughout Berkeley County already know, I was once a Martinsburg police officer. It was a privilege for me to wear that uniform and serve the public, and even back then I knew it was in my blood. My early retirement due to an injury left a huge emptiness in my heart and to this day I still bleed blue.
As many also know, I first ran for sheriff in 2012. An undeniable urge to return to law enforcement in a worthy capacity, to serve my county and do good for my fellow citizens. Thus began my personal journey into researching what it took to be a good sheriff.
During my time with Martinsburg police we were taught the ‘art’ of community policing. It works under the premise that a police force should be designed to function as a valued integral part of a community. That seemed like a smart and achievable concept to me.
Law enforcement’s duty has always been to ‘protect and serve’. Over the years public perception has changed and those inspirational words have been tarnished. Today many well meaning people believe “to protect and to serve” more adequately represents police doing whatever is necessary to protect the force.. not the people.
During my ongoing research into what makes a good sheriff, I remember reading an article that was related to the nationwide surge of questionable police shootings.
The article explained in some detail how and why the “to protect and to serve’ may have evolved over time based on the concept of force protection. It identified how any police department that suffers from a constant stream of public criticism will find itself susceptible and in some ways subconsciously vulnerable to the ‘us-against-them’ mindset infecting their department.
As a military concept force protection makes sense. It means you do everything you can to protect your troops, because you are not concerned about the health or the safety of the enemy you are engaging and therefore using force protection is a necessary tool.
In public policing however, force protection should only be a consideration to the extent that it does not interfere with the primary mission, to protect citizens and serve the public. Without proper training and oversight police officers can lose sight of their true mission.
The “thin blue line” that should represent a force dedicated to protect the public from chaos, is often perceived as a force used to protect their own officers. Yes.. it only takes one bad action by a single police officer to cause damage to the law enforcement image.
Bad actions undermine the good and honorable acts performed daily around this country. Through social media and the use of personal phone video, the public is now seeing bad actions exhibited to a greater extent than ever before.
I believe in and completely support the concept and application of community policing. Community policing built on respectful cooperation. An effective style of law enforcement representing legitimate use of police authority. It is true police officers are members in a brotherhood of shared experience, but a police officer’s primary duty is to the public.
Berkeley County deserves a Sheriff’s Department that is focused on community policing. By respectfully working together we can build a department the county can be proud of. Dedicated to protecting and serving everyone in this county, equally under the law.
As your Sheriff I would work tirelessly to make sure that is accomplished.