Remember when Governor-elect Hogan said that the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri "really doesn't impact Maryland"? Recent events in Howard County would suggest otherwise. While incidents involving violent response from police towards unarmed African American men have not occurred here, their implications resonate far beyond their place of origin.
Residents participated in a #BlackLivesMatter vigil on December 12th. In fact, the vigil continues each evening at the corner of 175 and Brokenland Parkway. Candles are lit, signs held up, names chanted in memory of the dead. Events in Ferguson and around the country do have an impact here in Howard County. Citizens are struggling to find a way to have a fruitful dialogue about race and racial injustice.
Yesterday, a group of HCPD officers were in New York, "with thousands from around the country to pay respects to NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos." I was stunned to see this statement on Twitter from the Howard County Police Officer's Association:
@HCPOA: Mayor is speaking, police Ofcs turned their back on him, as he did to them
This sentence doesn't make it clear whether Howard County Officers participated in the action, but it clearly expresses an anti-mayor opinion. Here you see HCPOA publicly taking sides in this dispute.
I am not comfortable with that. When these officers travel to New York, they are representing not only the police department, but Howard County as well. Therefore their actions and public statements reflect on all of us. Columbia resident and USAF Veteran Josh Friedman responded:
For 14 amazing months of my Air Force career, I helped repatriate fallen Airmen home to ANC. Politicians often attended funerals, many of whom I disagreed with. But if I ever thought to show any disrespect, let alone turn my back, I would have been fired. We are right to grieve and mourn for fallen police officers, but that does not give anyone the right to show such utter disrespect to a duly elected Mayor. You attend a funeral to offer a comfort to the fallen's family, NOT to make a political statement.
So, to whom is HCPOA answerable? Does it matter how they represent Howard County in New York and elsewhere? It does to me. I noticed that the following tweet was added later:
@HCPOA: Just to be clear NYPD turned their back on their Mayor
It doesn't entirely clear up my misgivings with the earlier tweet. The Mayor of New York was elected with 73 per cent of the vote. Police officers that show such blatant disrespect for democratically elected leaders make me feel less safe in my own community. Why? Because some of them are from my community. That's how events from places like Ferguson rear their ugly heads in Maryland. And yes, they will have an impact.
I would really like to see some official local response to this.