New Bedford Police Drama [OPINION]
The Mitchell Administration recently contracted for a complete and thorough review of the New Bedford Police Department. The results of the study were presented to the Administration in February and now the New Bedford Police Union is using it to beat up Chief Joseph Cordeiro.
The appointment three years ago of Cordeiro, a long time veteran of the New Bedford Police Department, was met with praise from elected officials, civic organizations, neighborhood leaders and rank-and-file police officers, including the union leadership. What has happened since then?
The union has become disenchanted with Cordeiro's leadership style and disagrees with his community-based policing policies. A recent union survey of rank-and-file officers indicates that the vast majority are unhappy with Cordeiro. Most say morale is low and that they would prefer to serve another department somewhere else. The report says morale has been an issue for decades, but union president Hank Turgeon tells me it's never been lower than now.
Policing is an extremely tough job. The challenges for police officers have never been greater. I am dismayed at the declining respect that society shows for law enforcement. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), for example, recently referred to a rally by Massachusetts police officers in Bourne as an "anti-Muslim hate group" and accused law enforcement of being "racist...front to back." She was easily re-elected.
Unlike Warren, I am pro-cop and want our police officers to be happy. But we have one chief and he gets to set policy.
I asked Turgeon on my program last week if the union was expressing "no confidence" in Chief Cordeiro. He replied that that could only happen through a vote of the membership, something that he was not prepared to call for. Why not?
The New Bedford Police Union has been working without a new contract for 10 months. Negotiations are continuing but progress is apparently slow. Unfortunately, issues of leadership and morale only seem to rise to the public's attention during contract time.
If there is a long-standing morale issue within the police department and the rank and file are unhappy with the direction the department is taking, we need to have a public discussion about it. Issues of morale and leadership cannot only surface during contract talks. If the issues are legit, let's address them as a community right away.
The public pays for and deserves nothing less than a police department that wants to be here and is fully committed to serving the public good. If morale has been an issue within the department for decades, we need to know why and do something about it. Trotting these issues out only at contract time tends to make the public a bit skeptical.
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.