We reported last week on the crisis – oops, County Manager Mark Schwartz says it is not a crisis (yet) – in Arlington police staffing.
As a Sun Gazette editorial noted more than a year ago – when the crap-on-police movement was in full bloom among the left – if police continue to bear the brunt of too often misapplied criticism of the many based on the actions of a few, officers were going to vote with their feet and depart.
As they now are doing in Arlington and elsewhere, whether at the start of their careers, in the twilight or somewhere in between.
And at the local level just as nationally, who can blame them:
• Northern Virginia voters, almost without giving it a second thought, installed prosecutors who seem to hold the view that criminals are victims, the actual victims are nuisances, and police are to be viewed as suspect in everything they do. That has had a devastating impact on police morale.
• Other elected officials are speaking out of both sides of their mouths on the issue of police and policing, depending on the audience they are addressing at any given moment. There is no consistent messaging, and certainly no consistent message that “we’ve got your back.”
• As for top brass within police departments, we’d wager that most of the rank-and-file are of the opinion that, if something happens that requires top leaders in the department to defend them, it’s even money that support will not be forthcoming. Too many of the top cops of Northern Virginia seem either cowed by, or controlled by, elected officials.
(As an aside, the newish Arlington police chief, Andy Penn, failed to impress during the County Board discussion of this topic recently. He seemed too timid to dominate the room – and having police professionals unafraid to speak up boldly is exactly what communities need from their police chiefs at the moment. Hopefully we will see some improvement in his public persona going forward.)
In his remarks, Penn suggested that the public was just going to have to “suck it up” (our phrase, not his, but it fits) and accept the likelihood of less responsiveness as the police department works through its current travails and tries to align its resources to the most pressing issues.
For the amount of world-class taxes homeowners and business owners pour into the local government, they have reason to expect world-class services. Top county leaders – who themselves earn world-class salaries – need to get off the stick and get a solution in place.