Letter: Police chief issue is not personal in Stockbridge

Chief issue is not personal in Stockbridge

To the editor:

In an effort to respond in an unemotional fashion to Phil Coleman's Jan. 17 plea to, in the words of The Eagle, "end the ugliness" in Stockbridge; it seemed logical to endure a self-imposed 72-hour rule before taking fingers to keyboard. However, after going back and reading the letter a few more times it seems that even three days is not enough to state the obvious; the only "ugliness in Stockbridge" seems to be scripted by Mr. Coleman's view of things.

This writer is proudly a member of the "unmannered mob" that exercises its First Amendment rights at Stockbridge Town Meetings. We are collectively nothing close to the depiction put forth by Mr. Coleman and I personally fit none of the characteristics he described. I am a long-tenured part-time resident and proudly a relatively new full-time resident of Stockbridge, I never knew the old chief or any of his staff that "weren't chosen" to fill his position. However, if any of us ventured into town we would surely see him walking the beat or witness his force directing traffic.

I don't know the new chief either, mostly because I never see him or his growing police force interacting with the public except for carefully planned public relations events like "coffee with a cop." They certainly don't deem it within their job description to keep traffic moving through town.

None of us have any doubts about our safety; we can certainly thank Chief Eaton for that. None of us question his resume; there is little doubt that he was and probably remains a very qualified individual. However, Mr. Coleman himself highlights the issue of policing tactics during the counterfeiting spree by stating, "that if we had just one more officer on the street at that time, the criminals would have been arrested". What makes Mr. Coleman think that an additional officer would have been on the street as opposed to sitting behind a desk or manning a speed trap?

As a "strong police chief" it is the sole discretion of Chief Eaton to make those decisions. Apparently, even the Select Board, as witnessed at the last meeting, can't even answer why there isn't an officer directing traffic at critically busy times or why even occasionally we don't see officers walking the beat. That, Mr. Coleman is our issue. It has nothing to do with a vendetta or who was or wasn't chosen for the position of chief but rather how the town should be policed and how much influence, if at all, the taxpaying public should have over those decisions. I'm guessing that Chief Eaton could have good answers to our concerns but to date, we haven't heard them.

I take strong exception to Mr. Coleman's depiction of the behavior at the last Town Meeting being anything but civil. If one goes to the record of the last meeting you will find that only one person was ruled out of order (twice) and asked to sit down by the Select Board and he wasn't a member of the 'mob' but rather a public servant who was, at best, rude to a resident who pays his salary.

Mr. Coleman, I might not agree with you, but I will defend your right to express such opinions. However, you should do so with civility and as you advised, don't make it personal which you (not me) did with impunity.

David S. Rosenthal, Stockbridge


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