Sure Sounds Like Mitchell Is Defunding New Bedford Police [OPINION]
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell insists he does not favor a popular movement these days, the calling for the defunding of police – but Mitchell's actions send a very different message. For two consecutive budget cycles, Mitchell has announced plans to close the downtown police station. This time, he means it.
Mitchell told WBSM's Phil Paleologos "there has not been any wavering on my part." Mitchell said that unlike fire stations, you do not need a police station in every neighborhood. Mitchell said "firefighters don't patrol, they remain in a fixed location."
As for police officers, Mitchell said, "regardless of where their locker is or where they put their personal belongings, they patrol." The point is that a permanent structure is not necessary for police officers, according to Mitchell.
Mitchell also said people no longer go to a police station to report a crime.
"There is something called a telephone," he chuckled. As a result, Mitchell said of the 38 largest police departments in Massachusetts, only New Bedford and Boston still have full-time district police stations.
Mitchell also swiped at the New Bedford Police Union and some city councilors for spreading concern about the station closing. He said "the public needs to know" that there are "financial implications" for the union by closing the station, that "money is involved." He said closing the station means trimming a captain, a lieutenant, and a sergeant, what he calls "higher-paid officers." Mitchell is implying that the union only wants to keep the station open to preserve higher-paying positions. How cynical.
Mitchell said closing the police station will help police officers to "patrol more effectively." He also insisted that decommissioning fire apparatus was safe and would not impact response time, remember? How did that work out for him? And us?
LISTEN: New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell with Phil Paleologos discussing the closing of the downtown police station.
LISTEN: New Bedford Police Union President Hank Turgeon responds to Mayor Mitchell's comments.
Fred Kalisz insisted that closing police stations made sense some 20 years ago. It didn't. If closing police stations make residents feel less safe, they will take it out on Mitchell just like they did on Kalisz.
Geez, closing a police station and cutting three top brass positions sure sounds like defunding the police to me. If it walks like a duck – yeah, you get it.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.