Decisions made by New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro have placed the safety and credibility of our police officers at risk.

Protests since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have occurred in cities and towns all across the country. Most have been peaceful. People are outraged and rightfully so. In many locations, the protests have been hijacked by anarchists and extremists and turned violently ugly. That violence has been allowed to go unchallenged in cities such as Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The City of New Bedford has remained relatively peaceful through it all though nuisance incidents have been persistent. The Mitchell Administration's policy for dealing with the protesters has been one of appeasement to maintain the peace. The policy, as administered by Chief Cordeiro, has kept the police at bay while allowing the protesters to do pretty much as they please, so long as they do not become violent.

Last week a protest rally near Brock Avenue and Ruth Streets got ugly. A large police presence was established. Officers with helmets ordered protesters to disperse within five minutes or they would begin to make arrests. But then the unthinkable happened: the police were ordered to stand down and withdraw.

Mitchell says the officers simply pulled back several blocks to de-escalate tensions. The protesters were allowed to continue to disrupt the working-class neighborhood until just before sunrise the next morning. The credibility of the police force was compromised by the suits.

When officers on the street deliver an ultimatum to lawbreakers only to have their authority usurped by a mayor and chief more concerned about offending the perpetrators than maintaining law and order, the authority of those officers is now compromised.

Mitchell is quick to point out that the decision to pull back prevented violence from occurring but I disagree. There was no violence because the protesters decided not to be violent, not because of a decision to emasculate the police.

I shudder to think about what might happen the next time one of those police officers is forced to deliver an ultimatum to a lawbreaker on the street.

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 barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app