Trust in those who protect and serve is maintained through openness
Published 6:55 pm, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
There are no public servants in whom the public places greater trust than police officers. When police are accused of wrongdoing, that confidence can be rattled.
It should not be broken, though. We believe that police, as a rule, do their job with honesty and integrity. And those who stand accused should not be judged until all the facts are in.
Granted, police officers from the area have been in the news a lot recently for reasons other than exemplary performance. Some are anonymous, some named. Some have been charged, others merely implicated.
Among the cases: a lieutenant fired from the New Milford Police Department, two Newtown police officers charged with stealing from their union, and a former civilian Brookfield police dispatcher charged with stealing from his.
Society holds police to a higher standard than it does people in most other professions. After all, the public safety -- people's lives, in fact -- depend on conscientious adherence to the pledge to protect and serve.
A crime committed by police personnel seems like more than that -- it feels like betrayal, even when the transgression does not directly affect the public.
But accusations do not, by themselves, equal conviction.
Locally, the Greater New Milford community was stunned when Lt. James Duda was suspended with pay from the New Milford Police Department on Feb. 8.
Less than a week later, he submitted a letter of intent to retire on May 27, the date on which he would be eligible for a full benefits package. On Feb. 28, Mayor Pat Murphy extended him the opportunity to retire on March 1 with full benefits.
But that offer was promptly revoked on March 4 and Mr. Duda was fired immediately.
The only reason provided to the public thus far is that Mr. Duda has been accused of unprofessional conduct related to the alleged destruction of town-owned computer equipment.
The former lieutenant has now said, through his attorney, that he wants his job back.
It must be noted that unlike the two Newtown police officers and the Brookfield dispatcher, no criminal charges have been filed against former Lt. Duda.
New Milford Police Chief Shawn Boyne is continuing his internal investigation. The Greater New Milford community awaits the results.
We encourage Chief Boyne and Mayor Murphy to be forthright with the public when the investigation is complete.
Only through openness and honesty can the public trust be maintained.