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Making a case for local police

We all know the importance of keeping law and order. But do we all recognize how hard it would be to do that without our police agencies — especially our local police?

Some communities in the Harlem Valley don’t have their own dedicated police departments. Think Amenia, for instance, which instead relies on either the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) or the New York State Police (NYSP). Both good options, there’s a sheriff’s sub-station on Route 22 in Amenia and an outpost of the NYSP Troop K Barracks, also on Route 22, in Dover Plains.

Both the county and state agencies are incredible resources, and we’re lucky to have them. That goes without saying. Both are manned by experienced, competent, reliable and professional officers who keep us safe and protected.

Only a few towns and villages around here, like  Pine Plains, Millbrook and Millerton, have their own dedicated police departments. Others, like Dover, Ancram, Copake, Hilldsale, and, of course, Amenia, do not. Those who do should count themselves lucky.

For the most part, local police respond more quickly than state and county agencies stationed farther away can. Some 911 calls can take 30 minutes or more to respond to, according to Millerton Officer-in-Charge David Rudin. And, when Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are required at the scene of a reported crime, EMS can’t enter until the police give the all-clear. That could mean precious moments lost waiting for a county or state agency to respond when a local agency could be there within minutes.

Sure, having a local policeman (or woman) might mean more traffic stops, which could mean a higher chance for tickets. But on the flip side, their presence keeps our roads safe. They act as a deterrent to those who pose a danger to the public. And anyone driving unsafely, driving under the influence, not abiding traffic laws, should be stopped, perhaps ticketed, and if need be, arrested. That’s why we have law enforcement. They’re doing their jobs — and we, for one, are glad about it.

In Millerton, there’s been a kerfuffle about the local police department and if it’s necessary. There are accusations that its officers are too aggressive with drivers, especially those coming out of restaurants and bars. Some merchants have complained.

Here’s the thing: Wouldn’t you rather have a really strict police force on top of every infraction — which could save lives — than a lax or nonexistent force, complacent and protecting no one? Sure, diners might be annoyed. Merchants could be angry. But the community’s safety is at stake here. The police department is doing an important job. 

Home buyers, for one, and potential business owners, often inquire if towns and villages have their own police force before buying property. It’s an advantage for any community, not a disadvantage. Just ask local Realtors.

We’re glad to see Mayor Debbie Middlebrook’s handling of the issue, and her refraining from jumping on the bandwagon to criticize the Millerton P.D. She seems to support the police and she should. She is allowing the force to do its job — and from our standpoint, it’s doing it well.

Others on the board, namely Trustees Christine Bates and Matt Hartzog, are concerned the police are overstepping their bounds. They’ve called  for the Village Board to “exercise police oversight,” and have requested more thorough reports on all reported incidents. While we’re not faulting the two for their interest in improving the MPD, we are concerned they might have their sights set on getting rid of the force altogether. That, we believe, would be a big mistake.

Just as there are those in support of dissolving the village into the town of North East, there are those who would like to see the MPD shut down operations. The arguments for doing so are varied. Motives range from taxpayer concerns to political maneuvering, but whatever the reason, we strongly support the Millerton police and all they do. 

Whether living or working in Millerton, we all rely on them — whether we acknowledge it or not. They should be able to rely on us, too, and know that their jobs aren’t on the line because of a few misguided complaints.